Carpal tunnel syndrome among apprentice construction workers

Document Type


Peer Reviewed


Publication Date


Journal/Book/Conference Title

American Journal of Industrial Medicine

DOI of Published Version



BACKGROUND: In terms of lost-work time and restricted workdays, surgery, and rehabilitation, one of the most costly occupational musculoskeletal disorders is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of CTS among apprentice construction workers. METHODS: This cross-sectional study included apprentices from four construction trades. Apprentices completed a self-administered questionnaire and received electrophysiologic studies assessing median nerve function across the carpal tunnel. A surveillance case definition for CTS was based on characteristic hand symptoms and the presence of median mononeuropathy across the carpal tunnel. RESULTS: Of the 1,325 eligible apprentices, 1,142 (86.2%) participated in the study. The prevalence of CTS among apprentices was 8.2%; sheet metal workers had the highest rate (9.2%). In operating engineers, the prevalence of CTS was significantly higher (OR = 6.9; 95% CI = 2.6-18.2) among the heavy equipment mechanics than the drivers of those vehicles. Body mass index, age, and self-reports of working overhead were associated with prevalent CTS. Less than 15% of the apprentices with CTS sought medical attention for their disorder. CONCLUSIONS: Many construction workers begin developing CTS before or during their apprenticeship. Few apprentices seek medical attention for hand symptoms characteristic of CTS. The results of this study indicate a public health need for the implementation of prevention strategies for CTS in the construction industry.



Published Article/Book Citation

American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 42:2 (2002) pp.107-116. DOI:10.1002/ajim.10093.

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