Office injury

Published by rudy Date posted on April 27, 2009

The lowdown on carpal tunnel syndrome
Joy, 35, was baffled that she kept on dropping things accidentally the past few days. She also felt pain and tingling sensations on the fingers of her right hand particularly at night. An accountant used to working till the small hours of the evening, the numbness and the intense pain soon prevented her from using the computer. A physician’s diagnosis shortly revealed that Joy was afflicted with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), a medical condition wherein the sensitive median nerve in the wrist passing through a bony canal called the carpal tunnel was compressed. While the causes of most cases of CTS were unknown, some were attributed to environmental factors like the excessive use of computer in the workplace.

Severe cases of CTS require surgery and the cost may prove prohibitive to ordinary wage earners. In the case of Joy, the operation costs her P25,000, she was fortunate though that her medical expenses were covered by her health plan.

First recorded in medical literature in the early 20th century by G. Sternbach in his paper presented to the Division of Emergency Medicine, Stanford University Hospital noted that CTS became widely known to the general public during the 1990s because of the fast expansion of office jobs. Statistically, it was found that women are more prone to CTS than men.

There is an ongoing controversial debate among medical professionals whether CTS is job-related or not. In many parts of the world, workers diagnosed with CTS were entitled to time off and compensation. In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had established guidelines regarding cumulative trauma disorders under which CTS falls. The pointers named repetitive tasks, force, posture, and vibration as factors that may contribute to the development of the condition.

Adherents of the medical theory that CTS is triggered by a particular set of activities admonish the practice of safety measures to prevent strain in wrists like using wrist pads for computer users and special stretching exercises.

In the Philippines, workers who were certain they’ve developed CTS during the performance of their tasks may file for compensation to their companies. “Such cases are covered by the occupational safety and health standards as stipulated by the Employees Compensation Commission [ECC],” says Atty. Honorata Victoria, a labor lawyer. Victoria explains that the ECC is a quasi-judicial corporate entity created to implement the Employees’ Compensation Program (ECP). The ECP provides a package of benefits for public and private sector employees and their dependents in the event of work-connected contingencies such as sickness, injury, disability or death.

Meanwhile, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand in a recent statement attested that current medical data does not support any connection between specific work tasks and the development of CTS. Sternbach also mentioned in his research paper that CTS is genetic in nature and therefore probably not preventable. –Perry Gil S. Mallari, Reporter, Manila Times

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