A car accident can cause carpal tunnel.
Carpal tunnel is a painful disorder that affects the wrist and hand. Bones and other tissues in a person’s wrist form the carpal tunnel which is a narrow tunnel that protects the body’s median nerve. The median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the hand, helps move the thumbs and the first three fingers on each hand, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve is compressed. For example, tissues in the carpal tunnel (such as ligaments and tendons) can get swollen or inflamed and press against the median nerve. The pressure can make a person’s hand hurt, tingle, feel weak, and-or feel numb. The pain may be so bad it interferes with sleep.
The most well-known cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is work-related repetitive motion injury. Less known, but no less true, car accidents can cause injury to the inner structures of the tunnel, as well. A wrist fracture, bone dislocation or eventual swelling of the tendons can slowly increase the pressure on the median nerve.
For example, a driver whose car is front or rear-ended may be forced forward into the steering wheel by the impact. The force of that person’s hands hitting the steering column may cause swelling, sprain or fracture that results in carpal tunnel syndrome.
A number of medical journals and articles link auto accidents to carpal tunnel syndrome.
A retrospective study entitled “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Motor Vehicle Accidents” in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association indicated that carpal tunnel syndrome can result from acute injury. Research showed that symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome developed in 96 patients within two months after a car accident. Forty-four of these ninety-six patients underwent carpal tunnel release. It was believed that the cause of injury was “blunt trauma from the steering wheel or dashboard.”
The University of Maryland Medical Center cited a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the BLS, carpal tunnel syndrome was associated with the second-longest average time away from work (27 days) among the major disabling diseases and illnesses in all private industries. The longest average time away from work was caused by fractures, with an average of 30 days away.
Proper treatment usually can relieve the tingling and numbness and restore wrist and hand function in people with carpal tunnel syndrome.