Carpal tunnel syndrome may affect 4 – 10 million Americans, according to the American College of Rheumatology. It is considered the most common nerve disorder among Americans, especially women. It can cause great pain, numbness, and weakness in one’s hands and arms. This can lead to the inability to perform common daily tasks and affect one’s ability to work.

If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome and it affects your ability to work, you could be eligible for Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when the median nerve is compressed within a section of the wrist known as the carpal tunnel. The median nerve supplies feeling and function to parts of the hand and arm. When the nerve is compressed, it can cause the following symptoms:

  • Numbness or tingling in the thumb, fingers, or palm
  • Sharp or dull pain in the hand, wrist, or arm
  • Difficulty moving fingers
  • Difficulty gripping or carrying items

Carpal tunnel syndrome commonly occurs in patients with disorders that cause inflammation such as arthritis, thyroid disease, and diabetes. It can also occur in those who have had previous injuries to the wrists such as a bone fracture. Medical professionals also consider the repetitive use of the wrist and hand as a cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. They believe the repetitive motion may cause the carpal tunnel to swell and press on the median nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome can affect hands, wrists, and arms of the patient at the same time.

CTS can be diagnosed by a nerve conduction test and treated according to the severity of the patient’s nerve disorder. Treatment options include:

  • Wearing a splint on the wrist
  • Taking medication for inflammation and pain
  • Receiving cortisol shots in the wrist
  • Changing certain repetitive actions of the hand
  • Surgery to cut the ligament compressing the nerve

The success of these treatments varies. Some patients may be left with permanent pain and weakness in the affected areas. This is more likely to occur in patients with an underlying disorder that caused them to have carpal tunnel syndrome.

SSDI and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has a 5 step process they use to determine a claimant’s eligibility for SSDI benefits. Those filing an SSDI claim for carpal tunnel syndrome must go through the following process:

  1. Determine if the claimant is working at or above the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level as defined by the SSA in the year they file. The SGA level for 2018 is a monthly income of $1180.
  2. Determine if the claimant’s complications from carpal tunnel syndrome significantly limits their ability to perform basic work activities such as:
  • sitting
  • standing
  • reaching
  • pulling or pushing
  • lifting or carrying
  • simple cognitive reasoning
  1. Determine if the claimant’s difficulties with carpal tunnel syndrome meet the criteria outlined in the SSA’s impairments list.

Carpal tunnel syndrome does not have a specific listing in the SSA’s impairments list. But, those whose CTS is caused by another disorder that has a listing, such as arthritis, lupus, and diabetes might be able to qualify under those listings. Also, since CTS causes nerve damage, the SSA’s listing for “Peripheral Neuropathy” could be used to determine qualification. To qualify for this listing the claimant needs to show:

Disorganization of motor function in both of your wrists, hands, and/or fingers that extremely limits the use of upper extremities.


Marked limitations in physical functioning the ability to manage oneself.

If the claimant can show that surgical treatment has not restored motor function and their doctor does not expect restored function within 12 months, they could also qualify under the SSA’s “Soft Tissue Injury” listing.

  1. Determine if the claimant can still do any work they may have done in the past despite the complications caused by carpal tunnel syndrome.
  2. Determine if the claimant can do any other type of work based on their:
  • age
  • education
  • prior work experience
  • mental and physical capabilities

Getting help with Your Claim

Have you been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome? Have you tried all the treatments but it still greatly affects her ability to work? You could be eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits.

But, getting approved for benefits because of carpal tunnel syndrome is not easy. You must have detailed documentation showing how ongoing complications from carpal tunnel syndrome affect your daily life and work capabilities. You also need to understand how to make your case to the SSA. Getting an experienced SSDI attorney to help you through the process can reduce your stress and increase your chances of receiving benefits.