Let’s first understand what an occupational hazard means. Occupational hazard refers to any work or profession related conditions that may lead to specific diseases or disorders in the individual involved in the associated profession or occupation. For example, workers in asbestos mines are prone to asthma, making it an occupational hazard.
Ongoing Debates On The Matter
There have been continuing debates on explaining the exact causes of CTS (Carpal tunnel syndrome) and many experts and researchers believe it to be an occupational hazard. It is speculated that specific professions that involve repetitive motion of an individual’s hand can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome; however, as experts are divided on this issue and there is no consensus of opinion, it is currently only speculation. It has also been reported that symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are exaggerated by activities that involve repetitive motion of the hands and wrists and continuing such tasks may further provoke CTS. The theory that carpal tunnel syndrome is work related arises from the fact that most of the cases of CTS are found in working adult population, though cases of carpal tunnel syndrome are also common in elderly patients who do not do any work at all.
Official Position of Industries and Unions
The American authority on worker safety and well being, the National institute of occupational safety and health (NIOSH), has mandated some guidelines for jobs that involve highly repetitive tasks and specific postures over an extended period of time. In the US there are worker’s compensation guidelines and laws which allow a patient suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome to receive time off and compensation.
Official Position of Medical Authorities
The American Society For The Surgery of The Hand disagrees that carpal tunnel syndrome is a result of repetitive motion of wrists and hands. It has in fact issued a statement mentioning that the current research results and theories do not support the notion that carpal tunnel syndrome is an occupational hazard.
Lifetime Cost of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The life time cost associated with a disease is the amount of money spent on its treatment and loss of work because of unavailability of an ill patient. It is estimated that in the US, the average lifetime cost of carpal tunnel syndrome reaches nearly $30,000 when expenditure on medical bills and lost time from work are accounted for.
A major reason for lack of consensuses among experts and researchers is that carpal tunnel syndrome is often considered as an idiopathic disorder, i.e. arising spontaneously or from unknown causes and in some cases it is misdiagnosed. Many other conditions can also lead to carpal tunnel syndrome as a secondary complication making it even more difficult to classify as an occupational hazard. For example, conditions that can lead to CTS include inflammation of the flexor tendons, hypothyroidism, extrinsic structures like benign tumors, obesity, hormonal fluctuations (some time CTS symptoms are reported by pregnant women, it is most likely to be due to hormonal fluctuations) and previous injuries to the hand or wrist.
About the Guest Author
The guest author is involved with health science research at a university level. Most of his work concerns finding the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.