The wear and tear on our discs are more commonly referred to as “degenerative disc disease.” A spinal disc is the gooey, jelly donut type disc that rests between your vertebrae up and down your spine. These discs are like jelly donut because they have a liquid inside them. The disc provides protection and allows a fluid motion between your vertebrae bones. It also protects your spinal cord that runs up and down inside the vertebrae.
What Are Disc Abnormalities?
Sometimes those discs can be damaged to the point where the fluid contained inside bulges on the wall of the disc. This bulging then presses on the spinal cord, which causes symptoms. This condition—often a work-related disc abnormality—is called a bulging disc. Sometimes the disc fluid ruptures the disc wall and protrudes out, directly pressing on the spinal cord. This can cause pain, numbness, and muscle weakness down the arms or legs. This common work-related disc abnormality is often called a herniated disc.
What Causes Disc Damage?
You can suffer from a herniated disc or a bulging disc by a traumatic injury, such as a slip and fall, car accident, or lifting something very heavy. But you can also get a herniated disc from the everyday wear and tear on your spine and discs. This is called degenerative disc disease. Degenerative disc disease happens to all of us as we age. It would be like having arthritis in your spine. The fluid in your discs dries up somewhat, which is called desiccation. But degenerative disc disease can even happen to younger people, especially those workers who have constant wear and tear on their spine due to continued twisting, bending, and lifting at work. In many cases, this repetitive activity can cause problems with the discs and manifest itself in serious symptoms like pain in the spine, pain running down the legs or arms, or weakness in the extremities.
Figuring out what disc abnormalities are goes a long way to help you if you have a workers’ comp claim. If you have questions about a back or neck injury that you may have suffered at work, the most important thing to do is contact a good workers’ comp lawyer who has been representing injured New Jersey workers for decades. An attorney will answer your questions and help you through this process.
Can Disc Degeneration Be Work-Related?
Yes, work activities often cause disc degeneration, and this condition is often considered a work-related injury. There are a few symptoms of disc abnormalities that you should keep an eye out for. The first is when you suffer from age-related and activity-related degeneration, and it makes your discs weaker. This weakness makes you more prone to injury when you lift something heavy or have a fall at work. For example, let’s say you are a 55-year-old worker who never had a low back injury in your life or never felt any type of pain or symptoms in your low back. But then you lift something heavy at work, and you feel significant pain. The doctor does an x-ray and an MRI of your lower back and says that you have disc degeneration. Did the lifting injury cause the degeneration? No, that condition was caused by age and activity over decades. But that condition was asymptomatic until the lifting incident aggravated it. Under New Jersey workers’ comp law, it is probably considered a covered work injury, and you should receive workers’ comp benefits from it.
Wear and Tear Work-Related Injuries
Trying to prove that wear and tear injuries are related to work is difficult. These aren’t easy cases to win, but it is possible. The risk factors for disc abnormalities are significant. One of the problems is that the doctor who would be testifying for the workers’ comp insurance company can always claim that the degenerative disc disease was caused over time, by age, or daily activity. They will argue that if the problem is caused by arthritis and age, it can’t be related to work activity. But most honest doctors understand that the degeneration can not only be caused by work activity, it also can be aggravated by a work incident, like a slip and fall or a heavy lifting incident. This type of case can be proven to be work-related, especially if the employee hasn’t had any symptoms in the past. Even though the disc arthritis may be present, it wasn’t symptomatic until an easily proven work incident.
What to Do When You Suffer a Wear and Tear Disc Injury?
One of the most important things you can do is see a back specialist as soon as possible. If the problem disc is in the neck, you may feel symptoms not just in your neck, but down into your shoulder. You might even experience pain, numbness, and weakness moving down your arms and into your fingers. But when you see a medical expert in this field, they will be able to document the condition, your symptoms, and when those symptoms appeared. And if the case goes to litigation, this doctor could testify on your behalf or draft a report detailing the facts of the case and the doctor’s medical opinions.
Trust Petro Cohen for Your WEAR and TEAR Claim
Petro Cohen, P.C. has assisted injured workers in South Jersey for decades with an emphasis on WEAR and TEAR™, or repetitive stress injuries. The firm’s Workers’ Compensation Department has more than 100 years of combined experience, among Department Head and Senior Partner Frank Petro, Partners Suzanne Holz Meola, and Terri Hiles, and attorneys Daniel Rosenthal and Sam Scimeca. Working together with you, they will ensure you receive the medical treatment you need and the compensation you deserve. Petro Cohen, P.C. has offices to serve you in Northfield, Cape May Court House, Cherry Hill, and Hamilton, NJ. To determine if you may have a potential workers’ comp and/or personal injury case, schedule your free and confidential consultation with a Petro Cohen, P.C. lawyer. You can contact us through our online form or via 24/7 live chat at PetroCohen.com.