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Can Carpal Tunnel be Caused by a Car Accident?

Michael Agruss

Written and Reviewed by Michael Agruss

  • Managing Partner and Personal Injury Lawyer at Mike Agruss Law.
  • Over 20 years of experience in Personal Injury.
  • Over 8000+ consumer rights cases settled.
  • Graduated from the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law: Juris Doctor, 2004.

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition characterized by numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand and arm. It occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. While repetitive hand motions and wrist activities are commonly associated with the development of CTS, it has been questioned whether incidents such as a car accident could also contribute to its onset.

In the context of a car accident, the sudden impact and resulting force can cause a variety of injuries. Trauma to the wrist or hand during an accident can result in swelling, fractures, or other injuries that may aggravate the median nerve. This acute trauma might lead to inflammation and changes in the wrist’s anatomy, potentially initiating or exacerbating the symptoms of the carpal tunnel.

Healthcare professionals consider the specifics of the injury sustained during a car accident to determine the link to CTS. If the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome appear soon after the incident, it suggests a potential connection. Understanding the relationship between car accidents and the development of carpal tunnel syndrome is essential for proper diagnosis, treatment, and potential legal considerations.

Person With Pain In Wrist

Understanding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a condition that affects the hand and arm, causing pain, numbness, and tingling. The issue originates from the carpal tunnel, a narrow passageway on the palm side of the wrist. Understanding CTS requires insight into its anatomy, symptoms, and causes.

Anatomy of the Carpal Tunnel

The carpal tunnel is a small channel in the wrist composed of bones and ligaments. The main components of interest are:

Bones: The wrist bones form the bottom and sides of the tunnel.

Ligament: The transverse carpal ligament stretches across the top of the tunnel.

Inside this tunnel runs the median nerve, which controls motor and sensory functions of the thumb and first three fingers. Alongside the nerve, tendons that bend the fingers also pass through this space.

Symptoms of CTS

CTS symptoms can vary in severity, but they typically include:

Numbness or tingling: Patients often experience these sensations in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers.

Weakness: A weakening of the hand, leading to a tendency to drop objects, is also a sign.

Symptoms can increase over time and may worsen at night, frequently awakening sufferers from their sleep.

Causes and Risk Factors

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can result from a combination of factors that increase pressure on the median nerve and tendons in the carpal tunnel. Repetitive hand movements, especially if the wrist is bent, can contribute to swelling inside the carpal tunnel.

Risk Factors

Anatomical: A smaller carpal tunnel can make one more susceptible.

Gender: Women are more likely to develop CTS possibly due to a generally smaller carpal tunnel.

Inflammatory Conditions: Conditions causing inflammation can affect the tendons and put pressure on the median nerve.

In addition to these, evidence suggests that trauma, such as a car accident, can exacerbate or contribute to the development of CTS when it causes direct injury to the wrist area.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from Car Accidents

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) can stem from acute trauma such as that experienced in a car accident. This condition affects the hand and arm and can result from injuries sustained when a person’s hand or arm is jerked or impacted during a vehicle collision.

Mechanism of Injury in Car Accidents

Car accidents can create a sudden and forceful impact to the wrist, which may compress the median nerve located in the carpal tunnel. When involved in a collision, individuals often brace for impact with their hands on the steering wheel or dashboard, leading to severe wrist flexion or extension. The intense pressure can cause swelling and inflammation in the carpal tunnel, increasing the risk for symptomatic CTS.

Relevant factors within a vehicle accident for CTS

Position of the hand: Whether the hand is holding the steering wheel or is being thrust against another surface.

Impact: The severity and angle of the crash can dictate the level of acute trauma to the wrist.

Diagnosing Post-Traumatic CTS

After a car accident, individuals displaying symptoms like numbness, tingling, or weakness in the hand may undergo diagnostic tests for CTS. Common tests include:

Electrophysiological studies: Measures electrical activity in the median nerve

MRI or Ultrasound: Visualizes the median nerve within the carpal tunnel and assesses any swelling or changes

Diagnosis typically involves correlating clinical symptoms with findings from these tests to confirm if the trauma from the car accident led to the development of CTS.

Treatment and Recovery

Treatment for CTS resulting from a car accident follows a similar protocol to other causes of CTS but is tailored to address the traumatic nature of the injury.

Non-surgical treatments:

Immobilization: Stabilizing the wrist with a splint to minimize motion and facilitate healing

Physical therapy: To reduce inflammation and restore range of motion and strength


Carpal tunnel release: Performed to relieve pressure on the median nerve if conservative treatments fail

Recovery time varies based on the severity of the injury and the treatment chosen, with a focus on reducing pain and restoring function to the affected hand and wrist.

Legal Aspects of Car Accidents Leading to CTS

When car accidents result in conditions like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), specific legal requirements must be met to pursue a claim. Victims must demonstrate the causality between the accident and the CTS, and legal expertise is often necessary.

Filing a Car Accident Claim

After a car accident, victims should file a claim with their insurance provider. This process begins with a notification to the insurance company about the incident. Accident victims need to document any damage to their vehicle, their injuries, and any other losses incurred because of the accident.

Steps for Filing a Claim:

  1. Notify your insurance company immediately.
  2. Collect and submit all pertinent accident documentation.
  3. Keep a detailed record of any medical diagnoses or treatments.

Gathering Medical Evidence

Medical evidence is critical in substantiating the relationship between the car accident and the onset of CTS. Victims should seek immediate medical attention to document their injuries. It is important to obtain thorough medical records that include the initial diagnosis, treatment plans, and prognosis. If possible, a specialist’s opinion pointing to the accident as the cause of CTS should be included.

Consult a Car Accident Lawyer at Mike Agruss Law

Car accident lawyers specialize in navigating the complexities of injury claims related to auto accidents. Consulting an attorney can be crucial in securing compensation for CTS caused by a car accident. A car accident lawyer from Mike Agruss Law will provide expert guidance on the legal process, ensuring the timely filing of all necessary documents.

As well, we also offer representation in negotiations with insurance companies to aim for a fair settlement.

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