Can I get disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Getting approved for Social Security Disability benefits with a diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome is not easy.
There is no specific impairment listing for carpal tunnel syndrome in Social Security’s Blue Book, and, in general, Social Security examiners do not consider the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome disabling.
However, you may be approved on appeal if your condition meets or equals the criteria of an impairment that is listed. Impairment listings that might be related to carpal tunnel syndrome include peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, or kidney failure.
A confirmed diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome is helpful, but you must be able to prove that your limitations are so severe you are unable to work for at least one year.
In addition to your medical records and results of the tests described above, Social Security will evaluate your ability to perform a range of physical and mental activities and any limitations you experience resulting from CTS. This is known as residual functional capacity (RFC). People with CTS have trouble with tasks such as typing, picking up objects, or operating an adding machine or cash register. Even if the RFC concludes that you are able to work while sitting down, if you are unable to use your fingers, there may not be any jobs you can actually perform.
Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
According to the America College of Rheumatology, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) may be the most common nerve disorder affecting Americans today with 4-10 million people experiencing some level of CTS.
Older people and women are more likely to experience the condition which causes pain, numbness and tingling in the hands and fingers. Carpal tunnel syndrome is usually quite treatable and resolves within one year, making it difficult to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage in the wrist that protects the median nerve which provides feeling to the thumb and fingers and controls the muscles around the base of the thumb.
The median nerve originates in the nerve roots of the neck and is one of the main nerves in the hand, traveling down the arm and forearm through the carpal tunnel to the hand. Flexor tendons that bend the fingers and thumb also travel through the carpal tunnel. The floor and sides of the carpal tunnel are formed by small wrist bones called carpal bones while the roof of the carpal tunnel is a strong band of connective tissue known as the transverse carpal ligament. These bones and tissue are very rigid, allowing the carpal tunnel little flexibility to stretch or increase in size.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the carpal tunnel narrows or when tissue surrounding the flexor tendons called synovium swells and puts pressure on the median nerve.
Synovium usually lubricates tendons, allowing fingers to move easily, but when synovium swells, it crowds the median nerve resulting in pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in the hand.
Symptoms begin gradually causing pain, burning, numbness and tingling in the thumb and fingers that comes and goes.
CTS can also cause pain in the wrists and palms of the hands.
Common symptoms include:
- Tingling or numbness in the fingers or hand. The thumb, index and middle fingers are affected, but not the little finger. Some people feel a sensation like an electric shock travel from the wrist up the arm.
- Weakness in the hands with a tendency to drop objects.
Symptoms are most often experienced when the hand is bent up or down for a long period of time.
Most people sleep with their wrists bent and may wake up feeling numbness in their fingers.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by a variety of factors:
- Repetitive hand use. Wrist and hand motions that are repeated over a long time period, such as typing, irritate the tendons, causing swelling and pressure on the nerves.
- Actions that require extreme flexion or extension of the hands and wrists for prolonged periods.
- Heredity. The carpal tunnel is smaller is some people. Other anatomical factors that limit the space surrounding the median nerve may run in families.
- Medical disorders that cause hormonal changes, such as pregnancy, may cause swelling.
- Other medical conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or thyroid imbalance
To diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome, a doctor will consider an individual’s medical history and perform a physical exam to rule out any other medical condition, such as arthritis.
They will also carefully examine the patient’s hands and wrists and perform a number of physical tests.
The doctor will:
- Tap on the median nerve on the inside of the wrist to see if it causes numbness or tingling in the fingers. This is known as Tinel’s Sign.
- Bend and hold the wrists in a flexed position to test for numbness or tingling in your hands
- Test sensitivity of the fingertips and hands by lightly touching them with a special instrument when the patient’s eyes are closed.
- Check for weakness and atrophy in the muscles around the base of the thumb
The doctor may also order any of the following tests:
- Nerve condition velocity test – measures how fast an electric signal travels from nerve to muscle
- Electromyogram – tests how well the muscle surrounding the median nerve works and if the median nerve is damaged
- Lab work to check for diabetes which can damage nerves.
Symptoms gradually become worse, so early treatment is the key to slow or stop progression of carpal tunnel syndrome and prevent nerve damage.
Most patients improve by wearing wrist braces, resting their hands and wrists throughout the day, and taking over-the-counter pain medications. In some cases, a doctor will prescribe steroid injections to reduce swelling. In cases where a patient experiences constant numbness and there is the danger of irreparable nerve damage, surgery may be advised. Patients’ symptoms usually improve after surgery, but recovery can be gradual and take up to a year.
If you have carpal tunnel syndrome and believe you are eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, it’s best to consult a qualified disability attorney before applying.
An experienced lawyer can guide you through your qualifications and make sure your application has all the evidence necessary to support your claim.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.
The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.
- The Duration of Work test. Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
- The Current Work Test. Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.
The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.
- Are you working? Your disability must be “total”.
- Is your medical condition severe? Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
- Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments? The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
- Can you do the work you did before? SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
- Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.
More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
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