Some of the most common work related injuries are to the back and neck. These areas of our body encompass our spinal cord. Our spinal cord is also referred to as our spinal column or vertebral column. It consists of 26 separate bones called vertebrae. These vertebrae are grouped together in our spinal column as follows: 7 cervical vertebrae in the neck, 12 thoracic vertebrae in the middle of our back, and 5 lumbar vertebrae in our lower back (lumbar spine). There are also 5 sacral vertebrae which are fused together to form 1 bone called the sacrum. Lastly, 4 coccygeal vertebrae are fused together to form the coccyx or tail-bone. Hence, the 26 separate bones. Each separate vertebrae is cushioned from contact with the next vertebrae by a disc. The disc is filled with cerebral spinal fluid. One example to help describe the discs in our spinal cord could be made through comparing the discs to styrofoam used as a packaging material to protect an item from impact during shipping. The discs prevent our vertebrae from colliding, or smashing into each other when we go about our work activities that put our spinal column under pressure. Spinal cord job injuries impact these discs in numerous ways. The discs can rupture leading to a loss of the cerebral spinal fluid that cushioned one vertebrae from another. The discs can be pushed out of alignment between the vertebrae.
In understanding the importance of maintaining alignment in a spinal cord, think of the spinal column as the information highway through which our brain sends messages to our arms, hands, legs, and feet. The messages include sending information that allow us to raise an arm, life a leg, to walk, etc. Essentially to function physically.
The vertebrae and the discs in our spinal column are surrounded by nerve roots. These nerve roots make up the information highway described above. If you sustain an injury to any part of your spinal column, discs are often pushed out of alignment. No longer properly aligned, the protruding, bulging, or herniated disc can touch upon, or otherwise compresses, a nerve. Some resulting symptoms are pain, numbness, tingling, loss of sensation, or loss of function (paralysis). These are often called radicular symptoms. They indicate an injury to the nerves surrounding your spinal cord and must be evaluated.
If you sustain an injury to your neck, determine whether you are feeling pain, numbness, or tingling into either, or both, of your arms. If you are experiencing such symptoms, you MUST report such symptoms to the authorized treating physician the worker’s compensation carrier sent you to. If you do not report such symptoms, necessary diagnostic testing will not be performed. An x-ray IS NOT sufficient to determine if you have a spinal cord injury impacting a nerve route. You will need an MRI, CT Scan, or other more comprehensive exam to determine whether there is an internal spinal cord injury. Spinal cord injuries involve soft tissue. X-rays reveal injuries that occur to your bones alone. A disc compressing a nerve route will not be revealed on an x-ray.
If you sustain an injury to your middle or lower back, you may feel pain, numbness, tingling, and loss of sensation into one or both of your legs. Again, you MUST report such symptoms to any and every health care provider you see through worker’s compensation; including any worker’s compensation adjusters or nurse case managers. When we represent someone injured on the job, we instruct the carrier to communicate with us about our client’s case. Doing so helps avoid situations where you may not realize the consequences of relaying certain information in a way that could be misinterpreted by the carrier and negatively impact your claim. There is still communication that takes place between our clients and the work comp carrier, but it tends to be limited to the date and time of medical appointments, and the date lost wages are scheduled to be received.
Another point to know in regard to documenting your work injury concerns filling out the paperwork you’re provided from the physician you’re authorized to see by the worker’s compensation carrier. BE SURE TO INCLUDE ALL SYMPTOMS YOU’RE EXPERIENCING (PAIN, NUMBNESS, TINGLING) IN WRITING ON EVERY PATIENT HISTORY QUESTIONNAIRE (THE PAPERWORK YOU’RE ASKED TO FILL OUT BEFORE YOU SEE THE DOCTOR) YOU ARE GIVEN. If someone else is completing such forms on your behalf, make sure they include a complete description of your symptoms from the very beginning. This goes for any injuries, neck, back, or otherwise, that you sustain while in the course and scope of employment
Keep in mind how limited x-rays are in determining the true nature of your condition. Simply because an x-ray did not reveal any injuries DOES NOT mean your work accident did not cause a work related / on the job injury. Besides your work related accident, how else would you explain the pain complaints you’re currently experiencing? Especially when these pain complaints did not exist before your accident. If you experienced previous pain complaints to the same area / part of your body that was injured on the job, ask yourself if the pain complaints you’re experiencing now are different from the ones you felt before? If so, the difference in your symptoms of pain from before and after the accident are an indication that your workplace accident caused an injury. We can discuss the issues surrounding proving entitlement to work comp medical and lost wage benefits when a pre-existing injury is involved. Preferably, that discussion should take place as soon as possible following a workplace accident. If you don’t choose to speak with us concerning a pre-existing condition and how it may impacts a workplace injury, we strongly encourage you to speak with a qualified attorney regarding the matter absolutely as soon as possible. Consultations with our office are free. To help protect your eligibility, there is nothing to lose in terms of contacting us with any questions. (727) 451-6900.
Remember, you must provide a complete medical history to the worker’s compensation carrier. This includes previous accidents, injuries, and treatment; regardless of whether the accident, injury, or the treatment received was for a workplace accident or not. Failure to do so can result in a loss entitlement to worker’s compensation benefits. We can discuss any questions you may have regarding providing a complete medical history so that you are in the best possible position. The worker’s compensation carrier is looking for any reason to deny providing you with medical or lost wage benefits. We work to help ensure that doesn’t happen. Even if you have been denied benefits from the work comp carrier, including a denial of your entire claim, contacting us to discuss your options is free. We’ve handled numerous cases in which a previously totally denied claim for work comp benefits was reversed. Visit us at www.dolmanlaw.com or call 727-451-6900 to address any questions you may have.