The very nature of how our spines work accounts for the high number of people who get a back injury at the workplace every year. The complex structure makes it possible to cause injury and subsequent pain even from simple movements. It probably isn’t news that lifting heavy items and turning from side-to-side can cause injury. Any action that puts a strain or burden of added weight on your back can result in injury.
Structure of the Spine
Thirty-three vertebrae make up the spinal column, including twenty-four which move and nine fused vertebrae. The spinal column extends from the cervical region in the neck to the sacral area at the base of the spine, just above the tailbone.
Each moving vertebra has a disk between it and the next in line to act as a cushion. The disks contain fluid which absorbs the shock from impacts or blows. When a back injury occurs, the disk may “slip” out from between the two vertebrae and allow the bone to rub together.
It is not uncommon for workers in any industry to experience a back injury at the workplace. Lifting, twisting, or pushing and pulling can cause back injuries. Over-using or over-stretching muscles can cause strains, while sudden movements cause sprains or torn ligaments. Repetitive movements or the normal aging process can lead to bulging disks. When damage occurs to the outer cartilage, a disk becomes herniated or ruptured, affecting only a portion of the area. A herniated disk is more likely to cause pain than a slipped disk.
The majority of back injuries occur to the lower back but poor posture can also lead to a back injury from extensive sitting at a desk. The different types of back injuries and the ways that they occur make it possible for workers in nearly any industry to injure their back while performing their job duties, regardless of how strenuous or low-impact they may be.
While an injury to any part of the spine including vertebra, muscles, or tendons can result in pain and limited mobility, a spinal cord injury is the most dangerous. The spinal cord is literally a bundle of nerves that carry signals between the brain and the rest of the body. The spinal column covers the spinal cord to protect it. An injury to the spinal cord can lead to serious injury including paralysis or death.
Types of Back Pain
Different types and severities of back injuries cause less or more severe pain, which is either temporary or permanent. Acute back pain lasts between three and six weeks before going away. It may occur immediately after the injury and be quite severe, but it is temporary.
Chronic pain, on the other hand, lasts longer than six weeks and may be permanent. For some people who experience a back injury, the pain lasts for months, years, or even for the rest of their lives.
When You Get Hurt at Work
When you get hurt at work you may be eligible for receive workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured in the course of employment. The insurance protects both the employee and the employer since historically employers were becoming insolvent subsequent to lawsuits from injured workers.
If you injure your back while on the job, report it to your employer or supervisor right away. For injuries that occur gradually, you need to report them as soon as you realize they are work-related. Your employer should have the appropriate documentation to complete and file your claim (DWC1). This form will start the process to get you the benefits you need to cover your expenses. If you have a sudden, severe accident that causes your injury, you may have to wait until you are stable to fill out the form.
Once you submit the completed form, your employer will provide a list of physicians approved by the insurance company that you can go to for treatment. Your specific diagnosis will determine whether you can return to your original job, perform all of your regular duties, or if you are totally disabled and unable to return to work at all.
Why a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer is Critically Important
Workers’ Compensation protects both the employee and their employer. When injuries are serious and/or permanent, they could end up impacting your working wages for the rest of your life. You could also end up facing a growing mound of medical bills for your long-term care.
The laws regarding workers’ compensation benefits differ among the states. A workers comp lawyer can help you understand your options and properly support you through the process. If your employer does not have workers’ comp coverage, they are in violation of the law.
If you got a back injury in the workplace it will most likely be handled through Workers’ Compensation although there are exceptions to this rule of thumb. Other circumstances that may be considered include injuries from using improper equipment supplied by your employer or being injured from an intentional act.
It can be very difficult for anyone to understand the terms and provisions that accompany a workers’ compensation claim. A workers’ comp lawyer can explain your rights and tell you all the options that you have available to get compensation. Your employer is liable for the conditions you work under and the safety of the tools you use. If they have been slack in providing what you need to work safely, they are responsible for your recovery.