It is a common misconception that carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) can only occur from repetitive stress. While it is true repetitive stress injuries are the most common cause, they are by no means the only cause.
If you suspect that you have carpal tunnel from a motor vehicle accident, you might be surprised to find that CTS can occur from trauma, especially direct injury to the wrist or hands.
How Chicago Doctors Define Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that causes pain, numbness, weakness, and other abnormalities of the wrist and finger function. It occurs when the median nerve going from your hand to the carpal tunnel of the wrist is under pressure or compressed.
Trauma or repetitive stress can force the carpal tunnel to become smaller as the area swells, which then results in the symptoms known as CTS. The traumatic carpal tunnel is believed to be caused by the damage and stress on the wrist’s tendons and ligaments. It can occur in one or both wrists.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome focus on your lack of function, which comes from the median nerve in your forearm. Some major symptoms that most people with CTS will experience include:
- Numbness in their hand
- Pain in the hand, forearm, and wrist that may ache or be severe
- Tingling like pins and needles
- Numbness or pain when you try to flex your wrist
- Stiffness in the fingers, especially in the morning
- An aching sensation in your forearm
- Weakness in the hands, dropping items frequently or being unable to grasp
You may have one or all these symptoms depending on the severity of your CTS. Sometimes the symptoms come and go, making you think that you do not have CTS. Eventually, they become more severe, and the longer you go untreated, the harsher the CTS symptoms become.
The Long-Term Effects of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is not something that just goes away on its own. In fact, the condition worsens over time if it is not treated. The situation might be worse at night and you find relief early in the day. Because of the numbness and reduced grip strength, you may not be able to perform your job duties. Sometimes, the numbness and weakness limit your at-home activities as well, including helping your family.
For some people, the CTS symptoms are so severe they cannot even brush their teeth in the morning. Depending on the severity and persistence, a doctor may need to use aggressive treatments. Other times, conservative methods will help relieve the symptoms.
Some treatment options available for those diagnosed with CTS include:
- Avoiding excess strain and not performing job duties and activities that aggravate the condition.
- Icing and using wrist splints to support the area.
- Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication.
- Receiving corticosteroids.
- Using opioid pain relief for cases of severe CTS.
- Receiving endoscopic or open surgery to correct CTS.
Can a Car Accident Cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Yes, a car accident or any direct trauma to the hand and wrist may result in CTS. Trauma-induced CTS can also occur in slip and fall cases, where the victim uses his or her hands to brace themselves.
When trauma happens, the ligaments and nerves are injured. As they heal, they develop scar tissue. That scar tissue impinges on your nerves, which then results in the classic CTS symptoms.
When the tunnel has no room to expand, any inflammation can impede the functionality of your median nerve. Your median nerve travels through your carpal tunnel and has nine tendons and tissues, known as your tenosynovium. If anyone of those nine become inflamed, they pinch your median nerve, which causes CTS. Acute trauma, such as from a motor vehicle accident, damages these tissues and tendons, leading to long-term inflammation and scar tissue.
According to one study, victims with neck pain after a motor vehicle accident had CTS or trigger finger also diagnosed. All patients were injured in accidents involving rear impacts – being rear-ended. The CTS developed from median nerve compression caused by the acute hyperflexion or hyperextension of the wrist in the crash. This can occur from gripping the steering wheel in a collision.
Risk Factors that Increase the Chances of Developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Some victims in a car accident are more at risk for developing CTS, including:
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Medications (including birth control)
- Smoking history
Establishing that Your CTS Resulted from a Car Accident
You must use significant evidence when trying to state that your CTS stems from a motor vehicle accident. Some ways you can do this include:
- Medical Evidence: The most substantial proof you have is medical evidence. Everything from diagnostic scans (i.e., CT, MRI, and x-rays) can help show the extent of your CTS. Also, medical observation, thumb weakness tests, tourniquet tests, and pressure tests can confirm the CTS and establish that it does exist. Using past medical records, you can prove that these symptoms did not appear until after the incident.
- Expert Testimony: Expert testimony is crucial in a CTS claim. Your physician and other professionals experienced in treating this condition can testify that your nerve injuries resulted from the accident and are not consistent with repetitive stress.
- Injury Diary: Immediately after the accident, you should create an injury journal. This lets you document your pain, symptoms, and the treatments you endure. Make a note of how difficult it is to perform everyday tasks, such as brushing your teeth. Note when you have pain or numbness, how severe it is, how it impacts you that day, and how often it happens.
- Accident Reports: Photographs of the accident scene, including your vehicle, may be helpful. These show the severity of the impact and the likelihood that you would suffer from trauma to your wrists and hands.
Recovering Damages for Your CTS
As with any injury case, you can receive damages for your CTS. While CTS might not seem as though it is a severe condition, the medical costs, time off work, and the impact it has on your quality of life add up quickly. Imagine the doctor’s visits, diagnostic tests, prescription medications, and even the surgery required to correct it. Then you have lost wages, cost of living, and pain.
These are significant costs to shoulder yourself, especially if you did not cause the accident. When you have CTS from an accident, you may be entitled to compensation by filing a car accident claim with the insurance company or an official injury lawsuit.
Most likely you have other injuries aside from CTS; therefore, your attorney will request compensation for the total damages, their costs, and your pain and suffering from those injuries. Because CTS is something that may affect you long-term, your attorney may explore options for compensation for the long-term costs, like medical treatment, future lost wages, cost of learning new skills to change careers, and long-term physical pain, mental anguish, and emotional distress.
Challenges You Could Face
CTS is still considered a soft tissue injury; therefore, you will face heavy scrutiny when filing a claim that includes damages for CTS. The insurance company may try to say you are exaggerating the symptoms, or that you are not returning to work when you could. They may also deny the injury outright, saying that it stemmed from work-related repetitive stress and not the incident.
Regardless, you have challenges ahead. However, with an attorney by your side, the problems are not as daunting. An attorney will work to prove that your CTS developed after the accident, the severity of your symptoms warrant compensation and that you have damages. Furthermore, they advocate for you, seek the compensation you need to pay your bills and hold the at-fault party responsible for your injuries.
Suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from a Car Accident? Speak with an Attorney Right Away
If you have developed CTS as one of the many complications from a motor vehicle accident, speak with an attorney from Malman Law. We are here to help you seek the compensation you deserve after a severe injury.
We understand how debilitating CTS can be, and how it can affect you the rest of your life. Let our team secure the money you need for medical costs, time off work, and the long-term complications you might face.
Schedule a free consultation with an attorney today at 888-307-2051 or request a no-obligation consultation online.