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  • Christopher Le

Social Security Disability Benefits for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) occurs when the median nerve becomes compressed at the wrist. This specific nerve controls sensations to the palm and fingers, and controls sensations to the small muscles in the hand that allows the fingers and thumb to move. The nerve compression is usually caused by inflammation in the tendons.

The Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can cause pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist. This pain can radiate from the hand up the arm. Those who have been diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome may experience a loss in movement in the hand and arm. This pain and loss of mobility in the hand can cause difficulty for those who use their hands for work. This can also cause problems with doing simple day-to-day activities such as taking showers, putting on clothes, personal hygiene or cooking.

In fact, its hard to imagine any job that doesn't require some use of one’s hands. Even the simplest of jobs require some kind of hand use. Take for exams a simple unskilled job like a ticket taker at a movie theater, the tearing of tickets requires use of both hands.

Objective Signs and Studies for a Diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome usually gets progressively worse as time goes on. It can be caused by an acute traumatic event but the majority of the time is brought on due to repetitive motion activity. Those who have been diagnosed with CTS experience burning, tingling, or numbness in the palm of the hand and the fingers. This can also lead to being unable to tell if objects are hot or cold. The symptoms can worsen in one or both hands at night since many people sleep with their wrists flexed. Those with CTS may have problems gripping and holding onto items due to the lack of strength in their hands and arm. In addition, even buttoning buttons on a shirt can be difficult because of fine manipulation limitations.

Restrictions Caused by Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

In evaluating your disability case, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will look at your "residual functional capacity (RFC)," which is essentially your ability to form certain activity after factoring in your limitations and restrictions due to your medically determinable impairments. First, SSA will examine your ability to sit, stand, walk, lift, carry, push, and pull. This is called exertional activity. SSA will then determine your nonexertional capacity, which consists of stooping, bending, crouching, kneeling, crawling and climbing. They will also consider manipulative limitations such as handling, fingering, reaching, grasping and fine manipulation. Your mental abilities such as your ability to concentrate and focus, attend and complete tasks and follow directions may also be considered.

After evaluating your limitations, SSA will consider your ability to do sedentary, light, medium, or heavy work. This is considered your physical demand level. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can cause weakness in the hands and wrists, which would make grasping and carrying items difficult. In addition, you may also experience limitations with lifting any kind of weight. These exertional limitations may warrant a light or sedentary RFC finding.

In terms of non-exertional limitations, people with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome often have difficulty with fine motor skills, such as typing and filing papers, handling small products, operating a cash register, and moving about certain objects. These non-exertional limitations can limit whether you can do any jobs within your exertional level. For instance, if you have an RFC for sedentary work, but you can't do anything with your fingers, there will be very few sit-down jobs you can actually do. Many, if not all jobs, require the use of hands. Jobs from heavy all the way down to sedentary all require hand use. If your hand limitations are significant, this could significantly erode the amount of jobs in the national economy that one can perform. If there are no jobs you can sustain due to significant hand limitations, may be found to be disabled under social security‘s regulations.

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