Chronic back pain is among the most common complaints among workers in a broad spectrum of occupations. Pain resulting from a job-related accident or repetitive stress injury may entitle you to workers’ compensation benefits.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “[b]ack pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor or miss work.” It can result from a variety of different causes, and it can have different effects on different people. While some people choose to ignore the issue, others have little choice but to seek treatment. However, we recommend that anyone who is experiencing chronic back pain see a doctor, and we also recommend speaking with an attorney about filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.
What Is Chronic Back Pain?
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) defines chronic back pain as, “pain that persists for 12 weeks or longer, even after an initial injury or underlying cause of acute low back pain has been treated.” According to NINDS, about 80 percent of adults will experience back pain during their lifetime, and about 20 percent of these individuals will develop chronic pain lasting a year or longer. Back pain lasting less than four weeks is considered to be “acute,” while pain lasting between four and 12 weeks is classified as “subacute” back pain.
Chronic back pain can have a number of different triggers. While many people experience chronic back pain following a traumatic accident, such as a fall or vehicle collision, others develop chronic pain gradually over a period of months or years. This is particularly common among people who sit for long periods of time during the workday, as well as among those who regularly use their back for job-related activities (such as lifting, bending, or twisting).
When Can You Seek Workers’ Compensation for Chronic Back Pain?
Regardless of whether your back pain is acute, subacute, or chronic, if you were injured on the job in New Jersey, you may be entitled to medical and disability benefits through workers’ compensation. New Jersey law requires all employers to provide workers’ compensation coverage, and workers’ compensation covers both traumatic injuries (e.g., those from falls and vehicle collisions) as well as injuries resulting from repetitive stress, or “WEAR AND TEAR.”
Medical Benefits for Chronic Back Pain
Medical benefits cover the costs of recovering from a job-related injury (provided that you see your employer’s “company doctor”). This includes the costs of treatment for chronic back pain. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the primary forms of treatment for chronic back pain include:
- Physical therapy;
- Rehabilitative psychology;
- Nutritional counseling;
- Nerve blocks, epidural steroid injections, and other injection-based treatments; and,
- “Acupuncture, massage, biofeedback therapy, laser therapy, electrical nerve stimulation, and other nonsurgical spine treatments.”
Permanent Disability Benefits for Chronic Back Pain
In addition to medical benefits, employees who have been diagnosed with chronic back pain resulting from a job-related injury may be able to recover permanent disability benefits as well. These benefits are available when you can prove by demonstrable medical evidence that you have a work-related injury causing a permanent disability that has impacted your ability to perform your activities of daily living, both at work and at home. For a breakdown of workers’ compensation disability benefits in New Jersey, you can read: Understanding Total vs. Partial Disability.
Are You At Risk?
Repetitive stress injuries (RSI), such as chronic back pain, are becoming increasingly common in certain industries. Approximately 60 percent of work-related injuries involve RSI, also known as occupational overuse syndrome or WEAR and TEAR. The following list represents some examples of industries and jobs with potential WEAR and TEAR claims due to repetitive, job related physical stress.
- Almost all construction trade employees/construction labor
- Many casino positions, including food and beverage servers, housekeepers, dealers, EVS/maintenance, HVAC mechanics, etc.
- Medical professionals, including nurses, nurse’s aides, and physical therapists
- Emergency response/law enforcement personnel, including police officers, firefighters, and EMTs
- Trucking and delivery employees
- Secretarial/computer/data entry employees
- Warehouse and retail operations positions, including stockers/material handlers
- Landscaping/excavation and heavy equipment operators
- Utility workers, including cable, telephone, electric, etc.
- Highway maintenance and service industry employees
What Should You Do If You Are Experiencing Chronic Back Pain?
If you are experiencing chronic back pain and you believe that your pain may be related to an injury you suffered at work, you should see a doctor promptly. Remember, in order to preserve your eligibility for workers’ compensation, you may need to see your employer’s “company doctor.” You should also report your injury to your employer as soon as possible. And when you file your report, you should be provided with the contact information for your employer’s company doctor – or perhaps a list of “approved” physicians.
Workers’ compensation claims involving chronic back pain can be challenging to pursue. This is because employers and their workers’ compensation insurance companies will often dispute employees’ benefit claims on a number of grounds. For example, companies will commonly argue that the employee cannot prove that his or her chronic back pain is the result of a job-related injury.
Get Help with Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
Due to these (and other) considerations, if you need to seek workers’ compensation for chronic back pain, it is important that you work with an experienced attorney. At Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo, we handle workers’ compensation claims statewide.
Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo has been consistently recognized as one of New Jersey’s leading firms in the area of workers’ comp. The firm received the highest rating by Martindale-Hubbell – the world’s foremost authority on law firm credentials – in Professional Excellence and Ethical Standards and Legal Ability.
In addition to the firm’s stellar reputation, the department head, Frank Petro, is respected locally, regionally, and nationally as a leading attorney in this specialized field. He has been recognized as an outstanding attorney by Best Lawyers® every year since 1995 and by Super Lawyers® every year since 2005. Moreover, he has achieved a rating of “Superb” on the leading lawyer-review website, Avvo®, the highest achievable rating.
Along with Stephen M. Matarazzo, Suzanne Holz Meola, Terri Hiles, Steven Lubcher, and Daniel Rosenthal, our New Jersey workers’ comp attorneys have more than 100 years of combined experience, having successfully handled thousands of litigated workers’ comp cases throughout New Jersey. This experience and winning track record means that you are going to have a skilled New Jersey work injury lawyer who will work for you.
To speak with one of our attorneys about your claim as soon as possible, please call us or request a free and confidential consultation online today. You work hard. Now let us work hard for you.