Slepian Smith, PLLC

Can you receive disability benefits for carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common nerve condition caused by a pinched nerve in the wrist, called the median nerve. The swelling of the surrounding tendons narrows the tunnel around the nerve, which puts pressure on the median nerve. The pressure from the swelling can lead to loss of motor functions, which can leave the afflicted person unable to work.

What are the symptoms and treatment?

Common symptoms include numbness, tingling and a painful burning sensation in the thumb and first three fingers. The tingling and pain sensations can travel up the arm, and those suffering from CTS may have weakness or clumsiness in the hand. As symptoms worsen, fine motor skills can deteriorate and grip strength can weaken. These symptoms tend to come on gradually and worsen over time.

Since one of the main causes is repetitive motions, changes to the work environment may help, such as introducing a carpal tunnel friendly mouse and keyboard. Treatment can also include splints on the hands and wrists to prevent movement. In severe cases, surgery may be required to relieve pressure on the median nerve.

Obtaining Social Security Disability benefits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not have a specific listing for CTS in its blue book of disabling impairments. However, CTS can be deemed medically equivalent to another disability, such as peripheral neuropathy—a form of nerve damage that is listed in the blue book.

In order to prove your condition is disabling, you will need documentation, which may include:

  • Medical records and treatment history – including surgical and non-surgical procedures
  • Nerve conduction tests, which determine nerve function
  • A residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment, which helps determine your physical and mental limitations

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be debilitating. The pain and loss of motor function in the hands make performing basic work tasks difficult. If you can no longer perform your job duties because of CTS, you should explore your options for obtaining disability benefits.

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