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CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME & DISABILITY

WHAT IS CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a fairly common condition. It comes from overuse of the hand while doing repetitive movements. The carpal tunnel is an opening in your wrist that is formed by the carpal bones on the bottom of the wrist and the carpal ligament at the top of the wrist. The median nerve comes down the forearm, goes through the carpal tunnel opening and into the palm of the hand. It then branches into your thumb and 3 middle fingers. For an example, see the drawing below. You will usually start to feel carpal tunnel pain when you compress or squeeze the median nerve.

Carpal tunnel symptoms are different for every person. However, the condition normally involve numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand, wrist and forearm. Also, you may have pain in your fingers and thumb. Overuse of the hand for certain activities, such as picking up small objects or typing, can create carpal tunnel syndrome.

Obviously, not being able to constantly use your hands may keep you from working at your job. If you cannot work at your job due to a physical or mental condition for 12 months or longer, then you should apply for Social Security benefits. Make sure to apply for SSD and SSI benefits as soon as you know that you are not going to return to work due to your medical condition.

carpal tunnel syndrome

APPLYING FOR BENEFITS IS EASY WITH THE HELP OF CANNON DISABILITY LAW

There are two types of benefits you can apply for. The first is Social Security Disability benefits. The second is Supplemental Security Income benefits.

In order to qualify for SSD benefits, workers over the age of 30 must have worked at least 20 work credits within the ten year period just prior to the start of their disability. Find out more about the definition of work and substantial gainful activity here. If you do not have enough work credits to qualify for SSD benefits, then you can apply for SSI benefits. SSI benefits do not require a work history, but you must meet SSA’s income and asset rules.

Applying for benefits with the help of Cannon Disability Law is simple. We will help you file your application for benefits online at the Social Security website. If you receive SSD benefits, then within 24 months of your onset date of disability, you will also receive Medicare benefits. Medicare benefits are a form of health insurance that pays for your medical bills. Find out more about Medicare benefits here. With SSD benefits, you can receive past due benefits one year prior to the date of your application.

SSI benefits, however, only pay out from the date of your application. They begin the day you apply and do not go back prior to the application date. Also, SSI comes with Medicaid benefits, not Medicare. If you do not apply quickly, you are losing benefits. Learn more about past due disability benefits here.

CAUSES OF CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. It can occur in either hand and also, in both hands at once. Pressure on the nerve can be due to many activities. For example, any of the following can be a cause of median nerve pressure:
  • Repetitive movements with the hands – like typing, knitting, texting, painting, or dealing cards
  • Frequent grasping movements with the hands such as using a tennis racket, rowing, archery, or rock climbing
  • Joint disease such as arthritis, osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Hormonal changes
  • Changes in blood sugar levels
  • Injuries of the wrist such as a sprain, dislocation, or broken bone

SYMPTOMS OF CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME

The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome usually start slowly. For example, even though you might use your hands to type all day at work, symptoms of numbness might begin at night. You may wake up due to your arm feeling numb or feeling like it has fallen asleep. Additionally, you may experience numbness or tingling in your fingers.

As the condition progresses, your symptoms can become worse. They usually because worse because the pain occurs more often. You can have numbness and tingling in the fingers during the day. Also, you can have more problems using your hands for tasks like picking up small objects, holding a book open, or using a pen to write. It can also hurt to hold a steering wheel or type on a keyboard.

Other common complaints include swollen and burning in the fingers. Additionally, the hands become weak and experience constant pain. The hand and wrist pain can become so severe that it keeps you from sleeping and the pain can also interfere with your ability to use your hands at work.

HOW THE DOCTOR DIAGNOSES CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME?

To figure out what is causing your wrist and hand pain, your doctor will give you a physical exam. If your wrists hurt and your hands are numb, your doctor will recommend wrist splints to be worn at night. Or, when you are using your hands during the day. If that doesn’t help, then they may recommend that you have electrodiagnostic tests on your nerves called an EMG. An EMG stimulates the muscles and nerves in your hand to see how well they work. It is best way to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome.

However, there are other tests the doctor can perform. For example, your doctor might do the following tests:

  • Tinel’s sign test: In this test, your doctor will tap the median nerve at the wrist to see if it causes tingling in your fingers.
  • Phalen test: In this test, you rest your elbows on a table and your wrist falls forward. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, then your fingers will go numb and tingle after about a minute in that positions.
  • X-rays: Your doctor may order x-rays of your wrist to see if you have arthritis or an injury.

TREATMENT FOR CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME

Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome might include:

  • Splinting your hand. This helps keep your wrist from moving. It also eases the compression of the nerves inside the tunnel.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication. These may be pills or they can be injections into the wrist. These medications reduce swelling.
  • Surgery. This eases compression on the nerves in the carpal tunnel.
  • Worksite changes. Changing position of your computer keyboard or making other positions changes can help ease your symptoms.
  • Exercise. Stretching and strengthening exercises can be helpful in people whose symptoms have gotten better. You can do these exercises with a physical therapist.
  • Surgery. Your doctor can perform surgery to fix your carpal tunnel syndrome.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU NEED SURGERY?

There are two types of carpal tunnel surgery: open surgery and endoscopic surgery. During open surgery, your surgeon will cut open your wrist and the tissue that is pressing on the nerves is cut. This relieves the pressure on the median nerve.

In the alternative, you can have endoscopic surgery. In this operation, your doctor puts a long, thin scope through a tiny cut at your wrist. The scope contains a camera and a light, which allow the doctor to see inside your wrist. Using the scope, the doctor is able to use small tools to operate on your wrist.

After either surgery, your hand and wrist are put into a splint. The splint keeps you from moving your wrist. You will need to wear the splint for up to two weeks in order to recover. Recovery from a carpal tunnel operation is different for each person. If your median nerve has been compressed for a long time, then it will probably take more time to recover. You may need some physical therapy after the operation to help with hand and wrist movement.

IS THERE AN SSA LISTING FOR CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME?

No. Unfortunately, there is no SSA listing for carpal tunnel syndrome. However, if you have carpal tunnel syndrome surgery that results in severe complications, you may end up with chronic joint pain, instability of your wrist, or the inability to use your hand. If that is the case, then listing 1.18 may apply to your SSD and SSI claim for benefits. Other listings, such as those for arthritis, may also apply to your case. Listing 1.18 is below:

1.18 Abnormality of a major joints in any extremity, documented by A, B, C, and D:

A. Chronic joint pain or stiffness.

AND

B. Abnormal motion, instability, or immobility of the affected joint(s).

AND

C. Anatomical abnormality of the affected joint(s) noted on:

1. Physical examination (for example, subluxation, contracture, or bony or fibrous ankylosis); or

2. Imaging (for example, joint space narrowing, bony destruction, or ankylosis or arthrodesis of the affected joint).

AND

D. Impairment-related physical limitation of musculoskeletal functioning that has lasted, or is expected to last, for a continuous period of at least 12 months, and medical documentation of at least one of the following:

1. A documented medical need for a walker, bilateral canes, or bilateral crutches or a wheeled and seated mobility device involving the use of both hands; or

2. An inability to use one upper extremity to independently initiate, sustain, and complete work tasks involving fine and gross movements, and a documented medical need for a one-handed, hand held assistive device that requires the use of the other upper extremity or a wheeled and seated mobility device involving the use of one hand; or

3. An inability to use both upper extremities to the extent that neither can be used to independently initiate, sustain, and complete work-related activities involving fine and gross movements.

As you can see, you would need to have severe complications from carpal tunnel syndrome in order to win benefits under SSA’s listing.

DOES CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME QUALIFY FOR DISABILITY BENEFITS?

Carpal tunnel syndrome alone does not usually qualify for SSD and SSI benefits. The reason for that is it can usually be cured with an operation and therefore, you would not be off work for more than 12 months. However, there are always circumstances where the operation does not work or you might not recover from bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. In those cases, carpal tunnel syndrome may result in being unable to work.

In most SSD cases, carpal tunnel syndrome is one aspect of the case. For example, if a person has worked a light unskilled job that requires repetitive use of the hands, they might suffer two physical conditions. The first might be a back impairment from arthritis, due to standing at work 8 hours a day for 30 years. The second condition might be carpal tunnel syndrome. This could be caused by repetitive use of the hands and fingers to sort and handle objects on a factory conveyor belt.

If you cannot stand 6 out of 8 hours in a workday, chances are that you can not perform light work. You may be limited to a seated job or sedentary work. Under Social Security Ruling 96-9p, which talks about Social Security’s rules, most unskilled sedentary jobs “require good use of both hands and the fingers.” In other words, to perform most sedentary, unskilled jobs you need good bilateral manual dexterity. Any significant limitation of your ability to handle and work with small objects with both hands will result in a significant erosion of the unskilled sedentary occupational base.

However, in order for the SSA to determine if you can no longer work, you would need a vocational expert to find that your hand limitations prevent your from performing all jobs.

YOUR CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME MAY REDUCE YOUR RESIDUAL FUNCTIONAL CAPACITY

If you do not meet or equal a listing with your carpal tunnel syndrome, then the SSA will determine your residual functional capacity (RFC).

The RFC is the medical assessment of what you can do in a work setting, despite your carpal tunnel syndrome and any other medical conditions. For example, if your symptoms give you pain and hand weakness, it may impact your ability to concentrate. Pain can also limit your ability to attend and complete a work week. Absences and time off task should be part of your RFC assessment. A limited RFC can prevent you from working any job, even a simple one. A judge will use the testimony of a vocational expert to learn whether your RFC prevents you from working at all jobs.

In order to figure out your physical RFC, the SSA will take into account what your doctor says in your medical records. Also, the SSA will review any statements from their doctors. If they need more information, then they may send you to a consultative examination. Learn more here about what to expect at SSA’s consultative exam.

The SSA will also consider descriptions about your symptoms from you and your family, neighbors and friends. This can be used as evidence for your case. Additionally, your family and friends can write statements about your carpal tunnel symptoms. They can also write about how severe your symptoms are and about the pain you experience. Find out more here about RFC and how it combines with age to eliminate work. Also, find out more about SSA’s Medical Vocational Guidelines here.

WHAT WE DO TO HELP YOU WIN BENEFITS 

You do not need to try to win benefits for carpal tunnel syndrome by yourself. Cannon Disability Law can help file your disability application. Also, we can help you appeal every SSA denial. For example, our attorneys and staff can:

  • Send you the paperwork you need to become our client
  • Help you file your application for SSD and SSI benefits
  • Inform the SSA that they should automatically pay your benefits under the Compassionate Allowance Rules
  • Request reconsideration if you receive an initial denial from Disability Determination Services
  • Help you confirm your attendance at a Consultative Examination
  • Request a Hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
  • Prepare you to be a good witness at your SSA hearing
  • Represent you at your hearing and question the vocational and medical witnesses.
  • Read more about vocational experts here
  • Learn more about medical expert testimony here
  • Request review of an unfavorable decision with the Appeals Council
  • Request review of an Appeals Council denial in Federal Court

If you file your application for benefits online at Social Security’s website, then you have 6 months to complete the application. Once you submit your application online, the SSA sends you an application summary in the mail. You must sign the summary and mail it back. Send it in quickly.

HIRE CANNON DISABILITY TO WIN YOUR BENEFITS FOR CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME

Contacting Cannon Disability Law is free and we do not charge an attorney fee unless we win your case. Cannon Disability Law is one of the best firms in the country. We are known as one of the best Social Security Disability firms in Las Vegas, Nevada. Additionally, we are also one of the top SSD firms in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have won over $100 million in both ongoing and back benefits. Many of those SSDI and SSI cases were for individuals who have carpal tunnel syndrome as a severe medical condition.

On our website, you can learn more about Utah SSD benefits here. Nevada Disability Information can also be found on this website. If you are from California, our website has California disability information. However, we can represent you no matter where you live.

In order to fight the SSA’s denials, you need a law firm with experience. Hire us. Dianna Cannon has been helping people who need SSDI benefits for over thirty years. Brett Bunkall and Andria Summers have many years of litigation experience. Together, we have won over 20,000 SSD and SSI hearings. You can trust us. We will do everything we can to win your benefits. Put our experience to work for you and win SSDI and SSI benefits for carpal tunnel syndrome. Contact us today.

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