I'm having carpal tunnel surgery after the holidays. Just wondering if there's anyway to tell if (and when) I'll be able to go back to work. I work in a small factory painting faces on dolls. It's tedious work and probably why I got the carpal tunnel syndrome in the first place.
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common problem affecting the hand and wrist. Symptoms begin when the median nerve gets squeezed inside the carpal tunnel of the wrist. This creates a medical condition known as nerve entrapment or compressive neuropathy. Any condition that decreases the size of the carpal tunnel or enlarges the tissues inside the tunnel can produce the symptoms of CTS. This syndrome has received a lot of attention in recent years because of suggestions that it may be linked with occupations that require repeated use of the hands, such as typing on a computer keyboard or doing assembly work. Actually, many people develop this condition regardless of the type of work they do. Determining who will go back to work after carpal tunnel surgery is the focus of a recent study from France. Looking at factors that might predict why or why not patients return to work was a second area of interest. Studying patterns of return to work and factors associated with return to work might help patients like yourself who are planning to have carpal tunnel surgery. By comparing demographics with return to work status, the authors were able to analyze the data for predictive or prognostic factors. All participants were adults between the ages of 20 and 59 years. It turns out there were quite a few factors that affected return to work status. The various obstacles included other musculoskeletal disorders requiring surgery, unfavorable work environment, blue collar work status, and belief that the problem was work-related. Number of days before returning to work (referred to as duration of sick leave) was also linked with these risk factors plus one more: dissatisfaction with results of surgery. Other studies have shown that workers employed in jobs requiring repetitive or intensive hand work and manual labor are most likely to have longer return to work times following carpal tunnel surgery. In fact, sick leave in industries with a high rate of carpal tunnel syndrome is rarely less than six months following surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. The authors concluded there is a relationship between medical, surgical, and occupational factors and return to work status for workers with carpal tunnel syndrome. Predicting who will be able to return to work (and how soon) after carpal tunnel surgery is not simple or straightforward. With so many potential risk factors and most cases involving more than one factor, makes predicting return to work a challenge. More research to find the "best" or most predictive factors are needed to complete the information gathered by this study. The role of sickness payment or workers compensation cannot be underestimated and deserves further investigation and study as well.