No matter what type of work you do, it’s likely that back and neck injuries are a possibility. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, work-related musculoskeletal disorders leading to days away from work are usually back related. And while they’re especially prominent among nursing assistants, stock clerks and people who perform manual labor, they’re present in all occupations.
So what happens if you hurt your back at work, and what’s the workers’ compensation process like for these often-persistent injuries?
What causes back injuries at work?
Our backs are complicated structures, and a back or neck injury can include broken bones, severe bruising, muscle strains, herniated discs, sprains and, in the most serious cases, damage to the spinal cord.
Back injuries can also be hard to treat. While some might require emergency care and surgery, others may be brushed aside or ignored for a time, leading to worse outcomes and a more challenging recovery. Whether it’s the result of trauma or persistent strain, a back injury can make it challenging, or even impossible, to perform the work you’re accustomed to.
Common injury types include:
- Herniated discs: When the soft, jellylike substance in the disc leaks out, it can lead to nerve or spinal cord pressure and tremendous pain. Herniated discs are also the most frequent cause of sciatica. This injury may come on gradually, or it may result from lifting while twisting or lifting with the back.
- Whiplash: When the head moves forcefully back and forth, it can lead to a sprain or strain. Often associated with car crashes, whiplash may also occur during a fall or an assault.
- Thoracic spine injuries: Injuries to the upper and middle part of the back are often incredibly serious and may occur during a fall or car accident. Thoracic spine fractures may require bracing, surgery and rehab. Thoracic spine nerve damage can cause pain in the arms, legs or ribcage.
- Lumbar spine injuries: Injuries to the lower back, or weight-bearing region of the back, may lead to the loss of some function in the hips or legs, depending on the severity. Car crashes, falls and gun violence are all possible workplace-related causes.
What happens if I hurt my back at work?
What happens after a back injury at work depends largely on the severity of the injury. Major back or neck trauma requires immediate emergency care, due in large part to the risk of spinal cord damage. If there’s any possibility an individual has a spinal injury, it’s critical to not move the person. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should assume someone may have a spinal injury if the person:
- Has a head injury or is going in and out of consciousness
- Complains of severe pain in the back or neck
- Complains of weakness or numbness
- Is visibly twisted or in an awkward position
In this situation, call 911, keep the person still and place towels to the sides of the head to help stabilize it.
For less immediately serious back injuries, it’s still critical to get treatment promptly. Unfortunately, many workers ignore or push past back or neck strain in the early stages, making it worsen over time. Other injuries, like sprains or strains, may feel manageable at first but require rehabilitation to heal properly and restore full function.
Early diagnosis and documentation also increases your chances of having your workers’ comp claim accepted. It can be hard to identify the onset of many back and neck injuries, making it hard to prove that they occurred at work. Preexisting conditions can complicate matters.
If you are injured at work, report the incident to your manager or supervisor. Get a second opinion if you don’t agree with the doctor’s initial assessment. A workers’ comp attorney can help guide you through the process of finding a doctor, documenting your injury and appealing if your claim has been rejected.
Georgia Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
If you’ve been injured at work, you need a workers’ comp attorney who understands the complexities of neck and back injuries. Contact the Law Offices of Laura Lanzisera today for a free consultation, or give us a call at 404-991-5097.