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What jobs cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that describes the pain and loss of hand and wrist function that occurs when the median nerve in the arm is compressed at the wrist. Carpal tunnel syndrome is most often associated with those who perform repetitive tasks with their hands and arms, as well as workers who use computer keyboards for extended periods of time and whose wrists are frequently pressed against a desk or wrist pad.

Number of CTS cases
Number of CTS cases involving days away from work in private industry, 1992-20011.

According to NIOSH data, the number of cases of carpal tunnel syndrome peaked in the early 90s, concomitant with a rise in computer usage in the work force. As awareness about the injury grew, the number of cases dropped thanks to workers and management taking an increased interest in promoting safer typing and work habits. However, carpal tunnel syndrome is still a common ailment for office workers, assembly-line employees and retail staff.

Distribution and number of CTS cases
Distribution and number of CTS cases involving days industry sector, 20012.
Incidence rate of CTS cases
Incidence rate of CTS cases by private away from work in private industry by occupation, 20013.

The industries which have seen the greatest impact from the damage caused by carpal tunnel syndrome are those which typically demand long hours of hand and wrist use from employees. These charts reflect the high number of cases in the support and manufacturing sectors, both of which require almost constant manual action during the course of a work day.

Number of CTS cases in California
Number of CTS cases in California by occupation, job activity, 1998-20004.
Number of CTS cases in California
Number of CTS cases in California by type 1998-20005.

The more in-depth data from the state of California sheds some light on how carpal tunnel victims are spread across different occupations. Once again, the emphasis is on office workers and those who are forced to either type or manipulate products and cargo in a repetitive fashion.

Carpal tunnel syndrome has a variety of treatments, and each ones effectiveness is usually dependent upon the severity of the injury itself. The use of wrist braces and physiotherapy to reduce inflammation and improve wrist support are the least invasive treatments. In more extreme cases, steroid injections at the site of the pain or even surgical cutting and re-attaching of the ligament surrounding the median nerve can help alleviate the swelling that causes the injury.

1NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 27, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid87.htm
2NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 27, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid93.htm
3NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 27, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid94.htm
4NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 27, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid96.htm
5NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 27, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid97.htm

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