Articles, Career Development

Career Development: Examining Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Examining Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

by Denise N. Fyffe

In the workplace, there is a silent and oftentimes threatening illness for employers and employees alike. This is the threat and the lack of knowledge of proper ergonomics.


Ergonomics is defined as the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of workers (NIOSH, 1997). Ergonomics comes from the Greek ergon means work, and nomoi means natural laws. Some people think of ergonomics in terms of the study of designing objects to be better adapted to the shape of the human body and/or to correct the user’s posture.

When ergonomics is applied correctly in the work environment, visual and musculoskeletal discomfort and fatigue are reduced significantly.

Office ergonomics can help a person be more comfortable at work, reduce stress on the body, and reduce injuries caused by prolonged awkward positions and repetitive tasks at an office workstation. Office ergonomics focuses on how the workstation is set up—the placement of your desk, computer monitor, chair, and associated tools, such as a computer keyboard and mouse.

It also examines a person’s job surroundings, including the work surface, lighting, or noise level. Common examples include chairs designed to prevent the user from sitting in positions that may have a detrimental effect on the spine, and the ergonomic desk which offers an adjustable keyboard tray, a main desktop of variable height and other elements which can be changed by the user and other elements which can be changed by the user

In recent years various repetitive motion injuries have been identified as a factor in employee injuries. These injuries are caused by excessive and repeated physical stress on the musculoskeletal system – the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, and back. Implementing ergonomic principles helps reduce stress and eliminate many potential injuries and disorders associated with the overuse of muscles, bad posture, and repeated tasks. It is achieved by designing tasks, workspaces, controls, displays, tools, lighting, and equipment to fit the employee’s physical capabilities and limitations.

Health Problems

In my work setting, there was an instance where a co-worker suffered from the absence of ergonomics. This person developed musculoskeletal disorders. Where ergonomics is not practiced efficiently there are always incidents of musculoskeletal disorders.

Musculoskeletal Disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders include a group of conditions that involve the nerves, tendons, muscles, and supporting structures such as intervertebral discs. They represent a wide range of disorders, which can differ in severity from mild periodic symptoms to severe chronic and debilitating conditions.

Examples include:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Tenosynovitis
  • Tension Neck Syndrome
  • Low Back Pain

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist that is made of wrist bones on three sides and a ligament (transverse carpal ligament) across the wrist where the palm and forearm meet. Tendons and the nerve (median nerve) for parts of your hand pass through this space to your hand. The median nerve supplies feeling to part of the hand. It also supplies muscles that control some movements of the thumb. Normally, there is enough room in the carpal tunnel for all these structures to pass through easily. Carpal tunnel syndrome is usually caused when the structures passing through the tunnel are crowded together and the median nerve becomes compressed ([1]).

Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs) like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are made worse by the work environment. They can cause severe and debilitating symptoms such as pain, numbness, and tingling; reduced worker productivity; lost time from work; temporary or permanent disability; inability to perform job tasks; and an increase in workers compensation costs. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be addressed by ergonomics. Ergonomics is the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of workers. In other words, musculoskeletal disorders are the problem and ergonomics is a solution (NIOSH, 1997).

Cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Jobs that have repetitive, forceful, or prolonged exertions of the hands; frequent or heavy lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying of heavy objects; prolonged awkward postures; and vibration contribute to Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs). Jobs or working conditions that combine risk factors will increase the risk for musculoskeletal problems. The level of risk depends on how long a worker is exposed to these conditions, how often they are exposed, and the level of exposure.

Impact of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

If carpal tunnel syndrome isn’t treated, the hand may become weaker and numb.

  • Permanent numbness and weakness can result.
  • The person is limited in the activities they can perform.
  • The individual will always be favoring the hand, meaning that they will be protective and shy away from normal contact.
  • They will be affected by pain and discomfort, and they won’t be able to function normally. For example, they will not be able to lift or hold moderate to heavy implements, carry babies/ small children, stretch their hands and sleep comfortably.

In the United States, musculoskeletal disorders of any cause are among the most prevalent medical problems, affecting 7% of the population and accounting for 14% of physician visits and 19% of hospital stays. When looking specifically at work-related musculoskeletal disorders, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in 1995, 62% (308,000) of all illness cases were due to disorders associated with repeated trauma. This figure does not include back injuries.

BLS also reports that the number of cases of repeated trauma has increased significantly, rising from 23,800 cases in 1972 to 332,000 cases in 1994—a fourteen-fold increase. In 1995 the number of cases decreased by 7% to 308,000 reported cases, but this number still exceeds the number of cases in any year prior to 1994.

When looking specifically at cases involving days away from work, for which more detailed information is available, BLS reports that in 1994, approximately 32% or 705,800 cases were the result of overexertion or repetitive motion. This figure includes back injuries (NIOSH, 1997).


Once we become accustomed to working on our computers, most of us are not at all concerned about how our workstation is set up.  We are more concerned about simply turning on the machine and starting it to work.

Many then sit hunched over at the computer for a couple of hours and later wonder why they feel so tired at the end of the day. Our eyes may be blurred, our wrists may feel sore, our shoulders, necks, and backs may ache a bit, and we feel totally drained. This is due to the absence of the practice of Ergonomics.

Ergonomics is the study of how people interact with their work and work environment. Office ergonomics can help a person be more comfortable at work, reduce stress on the body, and reduce injuries caused by prolonged awkward positions and repetitive tasks at an office workstation. However, if ergonomics is not utilized then persons within the work environment will suffer from work-related injuries.

Work-related injuries may include Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tenosynovitis, Tension Neck Syndrome, and Low Back Pain.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a specific group of symptoms including tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain in the fingers, thumb, or hand and occasionally spreading up the arm. These symptoms occur when there is pressure on the median nerve, which runs through the wrist’s carpal tunnel to the hand. Long-term pressure on the median nerve can cause permanent nerve damage.

If the hand is injured or weak then the person is limited in the activities, they can perform. Some activities which may prove difficult are lifting, holding, and carrying moderate to heavy things.








Check out her book The Caribbean Family

The family is the genesis of all societies. Every culture has its distinct rules by which a family is governed, and the Caribbean family is no exception. Those rules differ within each group; for the Indians, Chinese, and Africans. Making up most of the population in the Caribbean, African families have spawned several sub-units or types; some of which are unique to the African culture. This book explores each family type and their history within the Caribbean.

Available at all online book retailers and



Copyright © 2021 · All Rights Reserved · Denise N. Fyffe


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