If you work at a job that requires repetitive movement, you’re at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Over 60 million people worldwide are Holding a Wrist in the Air With Pain Radiating From the Palmaffected by this condition, and repetitive strain injuries cost at least $20 billion each year in workers’ compensation. Nearly half of all CTS cases result in a month of lost work time.

If you’re affected by CTS, you may have numbness in your fingers and palm, pain in your wrist, or a burning or tingling sensation in your hands. This occurs when the median nerve—the primary nerve running from the forearm to the palm—is squeezed or pinched at the wrist. Because CTS can sometimes be debilitating, it’s possible to receive Social Security benefits for this condition. However, it’s difficult to prove that CTS has made it impossible for you to work.

Diagnosing CTS

It’s important that your CTS be diagnosed early, so you don’t permanently damage the median nerve. Here is a brief overview of how a doctor may diagnose CTS:

  • Perform a physical exam of the neck, arms, shoulders, and hands. This exam will help determine if the symptoms are related to CTS or mimicking other painful conditions. 
  • Examine the wrist for discoloration, swelling, and tenderness. The doctor may also test the fingers and the muscles at the base of the hand to determine strength and if there are signs of atrophy. Lab tests and X-rays may be used to determine if the patient has a fracture, arthritis, or diabetes.
  • Use specific tests to produce CTS symptoms. The doctor may use the Tinel test—pressing on the median nerve in the wrist to see if it produces a shock-like feeling or tingling in the fingers. Or the doctor may use the Phalen test to determine if there is tingling or increasing numbness in the fingers.
  • Confirm the CTS diagnosis using electrodiagnostic tests. Small electric shocks are applied to the hand and wrist to measure how quickly nerves transmit impulses.

If you’re unable to work due to the pain in your hands, wrists, and fingers, you may be suffering from CTS. Contact us at 402-933-5405 to discuss your situation and determine if you might be eligible for Social Security benefits.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska