Spinal Disc Degeneration and Worker’s Compensation Claims
Some Professions or Occupations Have The Potential to Contribute to The Development Of Spinal Disc Degeneration, Making Individuals Possibly Eligible To Submit a Claim For Workers’ Compensation in PA
When the discs that provide cushioning between your vertebrae begin to wear away, degenerative disc disease begins to occur. This condition is more common in people aged 40 and older. Treatment can provide relief from pain and greater mobility. If you suspect that the degenerative disc disease you or a loved one was caused or aggravated by a physically demanding job, call Cohen & Riechelson at (215) 337-4915 today to discuss your case. There may be a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury claim that we can manage for you, to bring you well-deserved compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other economic and non-economic damages.
Understanding Degenerative Disc Disease
The discs that provide cushioning between your vertebrae (the bones in your spine) are rubbery. They’re like shock absorbers to help you bend, move, and twist. It is normal for these discs to degenerate as we get older. As these discs wear with time, the vertebrae can start to touch and rub. This causes pain and problems, such as curvature of the spine (adult scoliosis), when discs bulge or slip out of place or rupture (herniated discs), when the spaces surrounding the spine narrow down (spinal stenosis) when vertebrae move out of place (spondylolisthesis).
Causes of Degenerative Disc Disease Across Different Occupations
It’s common in adults over 40. The risk of developing this disease is increased by factors such as acute injuries, such as falling, being overweight, being female, smoking, and working in a physically taxing job.
Physically demanding jobs include:
- Construction Worker: Construction workers are involved in various tasks, including lifting heavy materials, digging, operating heavy machinery, and working in challenging conditions.
- Firefighter: Firefighters need to carry heavy equipment, climb ladders, and work in physically demanding situations, often while wearing heavy protective gear.
- Agricultural Worker: Agricultural laborers engage in tasks like planting, harvesting, and operating heavy machinery, often in outdoor conditions.
- Warehouse Worker: Warehouse workers frequently handle heavy boxes and packages, load and unload trucks, and operate forklifts or pallet jacks.
- Ironworker: Ironworkers assemble and install structural and reinforcing iron and steel to construct buildings, bridges, and other structures, involving heavy lifting and working at heights.
- Logger: Loggers cut down, process, and transport trees, which requires strenuous physical labor, working with heavy equipment, and exposure to challenging weather conditions.
- Miner: Miners extract minerals and ores from the earth, often in underground mines, involving physically demanding work in confined spaces.
- Roofer: Roofers install and repair roofs, which can involve lifting heavy materials, climbing ladders, and working at heights.
- Commercial Fisherman: Fishermen engage in physically demanding work at sea, including pulling in nets, lifting heavy gear, and working in challenging weather conditions.
- Landscaper: Landscapers perform tasks such as planting, digging, mowing, and carrying heavy landscaping materials, often in varying weather conditions.
- Welder: Welders work with metal and may need to lift and position heavy materials for welding, as well as work in challenging positions.
- Demolition Worker: Demolition workers are responsible for tearing down structures, which involves physical labor, the use of heavy machinery, and managing potentially hazardous materials.
- Athlete or Professional Sports Player: Professional athletes need to maintain peak physical condition and engage in physically demanding training and competition.
- Emergency Medical Technician (EMT): EMTs need to lift and move patients, often in high-pressure situations, and provide medical care in various conditions.
- Haulage and Trucking: Long-haul truck drivers, in particular, spend long hours driving and may be required to load and unload heavy cargo.
These types of workers may experience degenerative disc disease and qualify for workers comp or personal injury claim reimbursement.
How to Identify Degenerative Disc Disease
Pain in the neck and back are the most common symptoms. The pain may come and go, lasting for days, weeks, or months. Tingling and numbness in arms or legs is common. Pain may radiate down your lower back and buttocks. Sitting, lifting, or bending makes the pain worse.
Disc Deterioration Due to Aging and Minor Injuries
You might begin to have problems if your spinal discs dry out. Discs have a soft core made mostly of water. As we age, they tend to lose some water. Then the discs thin out and don’t function quite as well as shock absorbers like they’re supposed to. Experts also find that minor injuries can lead to small tears or cracks in your discs. These often occur near nerves. That means tears can be painful, even if they’re minor. When the outer wall of your spinal disc cracks open, the disc bulges out. That’s known as a herniated disc, and it may press on a spinal nerve.
Phases of Degenerative Disc Disease Progression
The progress of degenerative disc disease typically takes place in several phases that differ from person to person. The common stages are:
Early Onset and Asymptomatic Phase
In the initial stage, degenerative changes begin within the intervertebral discs, often without the presence of noticeable symptoms. Many individuals remain asymptomatic, meaning they don’t experience pain or discomfort. During this phase, structural alterations in the discs, such as reduced water content and integrity, begin to take place.
As disc disease advances, some individuals become symptomatic and begin to experience pain, discomfort, or other symptoms. These symptoms primarily include back pain, neck pain, and stiffness. Pain may be intermittent or chronic and could intensify with certain activities or movements.
Pain and Dysfunction Phase
In this phase, symptoms become more pronounced, leading to decreased mobility and functional limitations. Pain might radiate into the arms or legs if the discs are compressing nearby nerves. People may also experience muscle weakness, tingling, and numbness.
Advanced Degeneration Phase
Continued degeneration may result in further disc shrinkage and collapse, causing a reduction in disc height and, with it, spinal instability. Bone spurs can develop as the body tries to stabilize the spine, potentially leading to more pain and nerve compression. In this stage, pain and discomfort can be more severe, with potential complications like spinal stenosis or radiculopathy (pinched nerve).
Chronic Pain Phase
For some individuals, disc disease can progress to a chronic pain phase, with persistent and often debilitating pain. Everyday activities may become challenging, and managing the pain can be difficult.
Not everyone experiences all these phases, and the rate of progression varies from person to person. Lifestyle factors, genetics, and overall spinal health influence the course of disc disease.
Non-Invasive Treatment Options for Degenerative Disc Disease
For many people dealing with disc disease, the journey begins with non-surgical treatments aimed at alleviating pain, restoring function, and slowing down the progression of this condition. There’s an array of non-surgical options available. Physical therapy, with a tailored exercise program just for you, can help strengthen the muscles that support your spine, improve flexibility, and teach you how to maintain proper posture and movement. The result? Reduced pain, improved mobility, and a lower risk of further issues. Pain management can be achieved with anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen. Over-the-counter pain relievers and muscle relaxants that you can take by mouth can help to manage pain and muscle tension. Stronger prescription medications may be necessary for more severe pain.
Applying heat or cold to the painful area, or methods like electrical stimulation or ultrasound, can provide pain relief and reduce muscle spasms. Consider a visit to a chiropractor who specializes in manual adjustments that align your spine correctly. These adjustments can relieve pain and restore your spine’s normal function. For more severe pain, you might receive corticosteroid injections directly into the painful area of your spine. These injections help reduce inflammation and provide temporary pain relief. Think about making some changes to your daily life, such as maintaining a healthy weight, ensuring good posture, and avoiding prolonged sitting. Regular, low-impact exercises like walking or swimming play a key role in taking care of your spine.
Treatments like acupuncture, massage, or yoga can help relieve pain, reduce stress, and enhance your overall well-being. Additionally, a brace or corset would provide additional support to your spine, which can help alleviate discomfort. Get smart about your condition and learn how to protect your spine through proper body movements and ergonomics. Regular self-care practices, such as staying active, eating healthily, and managing stress, contribute to your overall spinal health.
And finally, you may benefit from counseling and psychological support because living with chronic pain can take an emotional toll. In these times, counseling or support groups become your safe haven for addressing the emotional aspects of disc disease. All the options above depend on the severity of your symptoms, the location of the affected discs, and your overall well-being.
Surgical Strategies for Conditions Associated with Spinal Disc Degeneration
Surgical options come into play when non-surgical methods haven’t alleviated the patient’s symptoms and when the impact of the degenerated disc on their life is significant. The location of the affected discs, the extent of degeneration, and the patient’s overall health affect all the choices described in this section.
Imagine a scenario where a patient is experiencing excruciating pain due to a herniated disc that’s pressing on a nerve root. In such cases, a procedure called discectomy becomes the solution. Surgeons carefully remove either a portion or the entire damaged disc to alleviate the nerve pressure and reduce pain. It’s like releasing the pinched wire of an electronic device to make it work smoothly again.
For others, the wear and tear on the discs in the spine become so severe that it leads to instability. That’s when spinal fusion comes into play. This procedure aims to stabilize the spine by fusing two or more vertebrae together. It’s akin to cementing bricks together to make a structure more solid. Surgeons use techniques like bone grafts or metal hardware to bring about this fusion, essentially putting an end to the movements between the fused vertebrae. The result? Reduced pain and a halt to further degeneration.
Another option, known as artificial disc replacement (ADR), is a bit like giving the spine a mechanical upgrade. When a damaged disc is replaced with an artificial one, the goal is to maintain spinal movement, diminish pain, and preserve some degree of flexibility. However, not everyone qualifies for this procedure; specific criteria must be met.
In situations where the spinal canal becomes crowded and compressed due to a degenerated disc or bone spurs, a laminectomy might be the answer. During this procedure, a portion of the lamina (the bony arch of the vertebra) is carefully removed to create more space. Think of it as enlarging a tunnel to ease traffic flow. This can help when spinal stenosis is causing pain or discomfort.
For those suffering from foraminal stenosis, which happens when the openings where spinal nerves exit the spinal canal become too tight, a foraminotomy may be the solution. During this surgical procedure, the neural foramen is widened to relieve pressure on nerve roots. It’s like widening a narrow road to allow smoother traffic flow.
Additionally, when the issue affects the cervical (neck) region, cervical disc arthroplasty comes into play. This surgical procedure replaces a damaged cervical disc with an artificial one, maintaining mobility while decreasing pain. Choosing the right surgical treatment is a highly individualized decision. It’s a conversation that takes place between the patient and a specialist in spinal conditions or orthopedic surgery.
New Technological Advances on the Horizon to Treat Degenerative Disc Disease
Very much in the research phase, scientists are looking at ways to use stem cell technology to regenerate spinal discs. A study done in California using treated stem cells in the discs of pigs with degenerative disc disease showed that, after eight weeks of treatment, examination of the discs of the people who were treated showed that they apparently were protected from degenerating any further. Also, the pH level of their discs, which is one indicator of healthy tissue, also close to normal. The experiments were conducted at Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute with funding from the National Institutes of Health and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Practical Tips to Prevent Degenerative Disc Disease
- The top-line way to prevent this painful problem is simple: maintain a balanced and healthy life.
- The first step is to ensure that your body weight stays in check. Extra pounds can strain your spine, so embrace a balanced diet and regular exercise.
- Encourage yourself to stay active. Walk, swim, or practice yoga at the very least.
- Master the art of heavy lifting. Use your knees and hips instead of your back to lift. Keep the object close and avoid twisting as you lift, ensuring your spine remains unharmed.
- Posture is a crucial element. Bad posture can cause gradual harm to your spine. So, stand tall, reminding yourself to maintain proper posture when sitting, standing, or lifting.
- Smoking restricts blood flow to your spinal discs. Quitting smoking is good for your discs as well as lungs and overall health.
- Make sure to stay well-hydrated, knowing that your discs rely on water to function properly.
- Set up an ergonomic workspace, ensuring that everything is just right to reduce the strain on your spine. Adjust the height of your desk and monitor to protect your back.
- Practice regular stretching and exercise. These activities keep you flexible and strong. You reduce the risk of muscle imbalances that could threaten your spine’s well-being.
- In periods of prolonged sitting, remember to take breaks, standing up, stretching, and walking around. Sitting for too long can be a silent enemy. Be vigilant in defending your spine.
- Sports and high-impact activities can put extra stress on your spine. But you can embrace them cautiously, ensuring you’re in good shape and armed with protective gear.
- Stress and tension are tough on your spine. Consider mindfulness, meditation, and yoga to keep stress at bay.
- Finally, get regular check-ups with your healthcare provider. It’s a way to detect any potential issues early on and take action.
- These strategies, put into practice, will help to prevent degenerative disc disease.
Contact our Bensalem Worker’s Compensation Lawyers to File a Claim for Degenerative Disc Disease-Related Injuries
A knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney, like the ones at Cohen & Riechelson, can guide you through the many steps you’ll need to take as we fight together for the compensation you deserve. Here are some of the ways we can help: We’ll conduct an initial meeting. A lawyer will talk to you about your work-related injury or illness to understand your situation. We’ll help gather evidence, like medical records and statements from doctors and people who saw your injury. We’ll help you fill out the right forms, make sure everything is done correctly, and file the claim. When it’s time to talk to the insurance company, we’ll negotiate with them to make sure you get the best benefits. If your claim is denied or you don’t get enough money, our lawyers can help you appeal the decision. If the insurance company wants you to see their doctor, our lawyers will make sure it’s fair.
Our experienced lawyers will figure out how much money you should get for medical bills, lost wages, and job training in Bristol, Newton, Langhorne, Doylestown, Fairless Hills, Southampton, and areas throughout Philadelphia and Bucks County, Pennsylvania. We’ll make sure your boss doesn’t treat you badly for filing a claim and explain your rights. If the insurance company offers you a deal, our lawyers will help you decide if it’s fair and negotiate for more money if it’s not. If you have to go to court, our legal team will build your case, show the evidence, and talk to the judge for you. We can also help you settle the case outside of court. If someone else caused your injury, our attorneys can help you file a personal injury claim against them. Hiring our firm can improve your chances of getting the right benefits and support during your recovery. The workers’ comp lawyers at our Pennsylvania office know the rules and can guide you through the process based on our experience. Contact us at (215) 337-4915.