Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome a Workplace Injury?

Carpal tunnel syndrome might be the best-known of all office health issues. So many people spend their days sitting at a computer and end up suffering from painful, frustrating aches and cramps. However, it is not always considered a work-related issue, so it is important to properly file your claim. After you file, your employer’s workers compensation claims managers are then tasked with accepting or declining the claim. They can either deny that the injury is work related or accept the claim as work-related. With some injuries the work-relatedness may be obvious, however with the symptoms of repetitive stress, causation and responsibility can be much more difficult.

Repetitive Stress Injuries Such As Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Repetitive stress injuries are not caused by a one time event but rather an accumulation of repetitive motions. Carpal tunnel happens when too much pressure is placed on the median nerve of the wrist. As this pressure continues over time, it can cause pain, tingling, and numbness. It can be treated by rest and anti-inflammatory medications, but sometimes surgery is necessary. Sometimes the effects of carpal tunnel syndrome are permanent, so employers are hesitant to accept those claims.

Is It Actually A Workplace Injury?

Unfortunately, there are competing medical studies about whether carpal tunnel syndrome is only a repetitive stress injury. In fact, there may be several potential causes of carpal tunnel syndrome. It is also related to hypothyroidism, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Work-relatedness and causation are determined on a case-by-case basis based upon the First Report of Injury, medical history, finding from the physical exam(s), other work and non-work activities and sometimes the review of other medical data in addition to the employee’s work tasks.

Having Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Prior To Employment

Any time that medical records are examined for a benefits claim, there should be a check of the employee’s history. If they have had carpal tunnel previously, that may hurt a claim. However, if it is shown that the job tasks aggravated a previous injury or condition, then it can still be successful. The employer will thoroughly investigate the history of the employee before agreeing to any claim of carpal tunnel being a new injury.

Providing Notice of the Injury

In most cases, a worker must provide notice in the form of a First Report of Injury to their employer regarding a work-related injury within a required period of time. However with repetitive stress injuries, this can be difficult since it is hard to know the actual date of injury. With these injuries, the last day the employee is at work can be considered the date of injury, since it is essentially the time the worker could no longer function at their job.


If you are a Minnesota worker who has been injured on the job, do not hesitate to contact Minnesota Occupational Health online, by phone or by visiting one of our Twin Cities locations. Our staff of physicians, many of whom are board certified in occupational medicine, offer years of experience and understanding in addressing work injuries.

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