What is the single largest cause of lost time from work in the United States? Back (lumbar) injuries are by far the greatest single cause of absence from work, both due to work related and non–work related injuries. There are many causes of back injuries and many different manifestations of the injury. Sometimes genetics plays a factor. Aging often leads to degenerative changes in the spine and supporting tissue. Trauma at work is also a big factor and sometimes aggravates or accelerates pre–existing problems.
Many injured workers suffer what is called “lumbar strain.” This description refers to stress on the ligaments, muscles and other soft tissues near the spine, with resulting pain. With severe pain, there are typically measured muscle spasms and difficulties with range of motion.
Sometimes acute strains resolve over several months, often treated with physical therapy and medications such as muscle relaxants and pain relievers. If acute strain doesn’t resolve in several months, this could be symptomatic of a more serious condition, including arthritis, degenerative disc disease or a disc herniation.
The medical name for a disc herniation is a “herniated nucleus pulposus” (HNP). The most common level of the spine where herniations occur is L5–S1. An HNP diagnosis means that there is found by MRI scan, a protrusion of the hard, cartilaginous center of an interverberal disk through the outer fibrous tissue. Sometimes a minor HNP will be symptomatic after a trauma, but can resolve over time. This condition is often treated by injections of corticosteroid drugs, reducing or eliminating swelling and pain.
Unfortunately, some workers’ compensation claimants in South Florida suffer from an HNP that presses on a spinal nerve root. This can result in severe leg or radicular pain and/or numbness. To relief pain, an orthopedic or neurosurgeon can surgically remove part of the vertebral body, via a procedure known as laminectomy. While this and other surgical procedures are sometimes very successful, there are patients who have poor results, many times from resulting scar tissue which continues to press on nerve roots.
Workers’Compensation and Social Security Disability attorney Randy Zeldin, Esq., has represented many clients who have sustained a variety of back (lumbar) injuries. These can be complicated cases, requiring skilled legal assistance.