[Carpal Tunnel Heading]
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is an occupational illness usually caused by repetitive motion, although a single traumatic event, such as a blow to the wrist, may also produce symptoms of the illness. The claims discussed in this report have been accepted as disabling by a workers' compensation insurer.

The number of accepted disabling CTS claims has remained fairly stable for the past five years (see Table 1). However, from 1990 to 1994, the total number of accepted disabling claims declined 12.1 percent, while the number of illness claims increased by 0.5 percent. As a result, CTS cases account for a growing percentage of total accepted disabling claims (see Table 1).

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Industry and occupation

In 1994, manufacturing industries reported the greatest number of accepted disabling CTS claims, 396 (32.1 percent of all CTS claims). About 32 percent of the manufacturing CTS claims were from the wood products industry, primarily the producers of millwork, veneer, and plywood (50 claims), and sawmills and planing mills (39 claims). Retail trade industries had 221 claims (17.9 percent of all CTS claims), over 60 percent of which were from eating and drinking establishments (52 claims), grocery stores (47 claims), and department stores (34 claims). Service industries had 220 claims (17.8 percent of all CTS claims), of which 41 (18.6 percent of services CTS claims) were from hospitals or nursing and personal care facilities.

Table 2 shows CTS claims rates per 1,000 workers for the major industry divisions. Overall, about 1 of every 1,000 Oregon workers had an accepted CTS claim in 1994. In the manufacturing industries, nearly two of every 1,000 workers had a CTS claim.

Operatives (except transport) was the occupational category with the greatest number of 1994 claims: 234 or 19.0 percent of all CTS claims. The other occupations with large numbers of accepted CTS claims were technical and administrative occupations with 207 claims (16.8 percent), service occupations with 174 claims (14.1 percent), and non-farm laborers with 163 claims (13.2 percent).

The main cause of CTS cases in 1994 was the body's reaction to a sustained or repetitive bodily motion. Bodily motion cases composed 60.8 percent (750 claims) of all CTS claims accepted in 1994. Overexertion with a variety of sources caused 32.0 percent of the CTS claims, the most common sources being non-powered handtools or boxes and containers, resulting in 22.5 percent, and 20.5 percent of the overexertion cases, respectively.

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Sex, age and tenure

More women than men had accepted CTS claims in 1994, 710 (57.5 percent) to 524 (42.5 percent). This differs from the overall pattern of 1994 Oregon claims, in which women accounted for just 32.6 percent of the year's total.

Over half of the workers diagnosed with CTS were between the ages of 31 and 45; the median age was 39. For comparison, 36 was the median age at injury of all Oregon workers with accepted claims in 1994. The youngest claimant with CTS was 17, the oldest, 74.

Of CTS claimants for whom length of tenure was known, 22.3 percent had worked for their employer for more than 10 years at the time of diagnosis or onset of their illness, but the majority of CTS claims - 371 or 33.5 percent in 1994, and 1,601 or 30.2 percent from 1990 to 1994 - occurred among workers between their fourth and 10th years of employment with a firm.

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Oregon employers should be aware of the problem of carpal tunnel syndrome and evaluate whether repetitive motion is a concern in their workplace. The Consultative Services Section of the OR-OSHA Division of the Department of Consumer & Business Services has professional staff available to assist employers in evaluating their workplace to prevent situations which might result in carpal tunnel syndrome. For assistance, please call OR-OSHA at (503) 378-3272 (V/TTY).
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If you have questions about the information contained in this document please contact by e-mail or phone:
Kathy Thomas, Assistant Manager, Research & Analysis Section, Information Management Division (503) 947-7308

This document was originally published in December 1995.
Document URL: http://www.cbs.state.or.us/external/imd/rasums/carpal95.htm

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