Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome In Decline?

In Why carpal tunnel cases are plummeting, the Associated Press writes:

With the personal computing boom of the 1990s came thousands of “repetitive stress injuries” or “repetitive strain injuries.” RSI became the hip medical acronym of the keyboard era, with subset carpal tunnel syndrome the diagnosis of the day.

“At its height of diagnosis, anybody showing up at a doctor’s office with wrist pain or hand pain was being diagnosed with carpal tunnel,” said Carol Harnett, vice president of insurer Hartford Financial Services Group Inc.’s group benefits division.

Since then, carpal tunnel cases have plummeted, declining 21 percent in 2006 alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among workers in professional and business services, the number of carpal tunnel syndrome cases fell by half between 2005 and 2006.

The article goes on to discuss why this might be, ascribing the decline to early over-diagnosis of CTS, as well as companies taking steps to improve on-the-job ergonomics. It also suggests that “While it’s possible that improvements in factories and offices may be behind the decrease in cases, another possibility is that existing cases aren’t always reported.”

The PointOfLaw blog expands on this point, discussing the lawsuit history related to CTS and RSI, noting that due to a court decision, “RSI-carpal tunnel litigation has subsided and is no longer seen as a threat to the financial health of computer makers, and most lawyers have given up on it.”

In other words, carpal tunnel syndrome may be “just as real and frequent an ailment as ever but is now being seriously underdiagnosed because workers are ever more discouraged from even so much as reporting it, knowing there will be no remedy.”

So, back to the original question: Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome really in decline?

Randy Rasa

Randy is an engineer/programmer/web designer who has suffered from repetitive strain injury off and on for over a decade.

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