Work Related Back Injuries
When discussing injuries at work, the most prevalent issues are related to the neck and spine. As the core support mechanism, the spine serves as the most significant building block in the body. The Spine is a complex structure made up bony vertebrae and soft fluid-filled discs connected by numerous ligaments. This structure houses the spinal cord, which serves as the vital highway of information which travels from the brain to all vital organs and limbs.
Between every vertebrae there are small exits which allow tiny nerves leave the ‘highway’ and travel to and from the limbs and organs. Though the spine is a miraculous structure, by the time a person stops growing, it has already begun to deteriorate, requiring care and consideration to maintain spinal health.
Although back and neck injuries remain the number one cause of all work related injuries and subsequent disability, most of these injuries are preventable. Proper positioning, regular exercise, appropriate lifting techniques, and basic safety practices are among the usual means of preventing back and neck injury.
The leading type of back and neck injuries we encounter are those caused by repetitive motion wear and tear. The most common cascade of events begins when a person will start of with minor aches and pains in the musculature surrounding the spine. Though commonly disregarded as a temporary issue, or a ‘sign of getting older’, this should be taken as a warning sign of an eminent problem. If precautions are not taken to prevent further injury, the pain may become more severe and additional symptoms, such as numbness and tingling in the arms or legs may occur.
This progressive development of symptoms is typical of work related back and neck injuries. Sudden onset of leg and or arm tingling and numbness, without back or neck pain, is another symptom indicating a possible back injury. These injuries are primarily related to the herniated discs, which are between the bony vertebrae, and pressing on the nerves leaving the spinal canal.
Accidental falls from heights, particularly ladders or scaffolding, may also result in compression or burst fractures of otherwise normal vertebrae causing the onset of severe back pain with potential compromise to the integrity of the spinal canal. These injuries usually require long hospital stays and are many times present with other bone fractures and organ damage.
Conventionally, most of the injuries mentioned above were treated with variety of conservative measures. These include anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy and several pain management techniques. Typically, surgery was avoided at all cost. Often, a lengthy insurance company authorization process added to the difficulty of this process, and further delayed the worker from returning to his/her job. Recent advances in technology, both in medical devices applied to the spine, as well as surgical technique, have led to better results, with faster recovery time, and increased ability to return to normal activity.
With the success of this groundbreaking technology, an aggressive surgical approach to spinal disorders is no longer something patients need to fear. Even so, these newer techniques often require your surgeon and his/her team maintain a detailed understanding of the workers compensation process to ensure a swift treatment. When choosing your physician, be sure to inquire about their familiarity with these newer techniques, as well as the required insurance process to avoid delays in your treatment.
Common Back Injuries That Occur At Work
Injuries at work place are very common and may be debilitating. Workplace injuries often occur because of high-risk jobs, lack of or scarcity in safety devices, lack of training, and higher numbers of manual workers.
Spinal injuries are the most common workplace injuries that may occur while operating heavy machines, lifting heavy objects, driving automobiles, or when you suffer a fall at workplace.
Common spinal injuries you may suffer at workplace include:
- Chronic low back pain
- Dislocation of adjacent bones
- Partial misalignment (subluxation) of adjacent bones
- Disc compression (herniated disc)
- Hematoma (accumulation of blood)
- Partial or complete tears of ligaments
The most common symptom of spinal injuries is pain. Some injuries may damage spinal nerves that may cause inflammation, loss of muscle control and loss of sensation. Symptoms may proceed to paralysis, limited movement, and immobility. Workplace injuries are diagnosed using X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic-resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
Depending on the type and severity of injury, treatment will be initiated. Regardless of the type of injury, patient should be provided first aid that includes:
- ABC – Airway, breathing and circulation
- Immobilization of spine to avoid further injury
- Shift to hospital and once stabilized, methylprednisone can be administered (within 8 hours after injury) to reduce swelling and further tissue damage
Later your orthopedic surgeon will decide on the treatment. You may be treated with pain medications, epidural injections (injecting into spine), physiotherapy, and surgery. Surgery is recommended when other treatments are a failure or inappropriate. Your spine surgeon may recommend for rehabilitation that includes both physiotherapy and occupational therapy to promote complete and faster healing.
The Center For Musculoskeletal Disorders
The orthopedic doctors and staff members of The Center for Musculoskeletal Disorders have extensive experience and expertise in treating an injured worker. From initial evaluation in any setting (i.e. office, emergency room or in the rehab facility) we will make you feel comfortable that not only your medical condition will be taken care of, but all your paperwork will be submitted in a timely fashion. While ensuring patients confidentiality we will communicate with all parties involved to expedite a treatment authorization process. This in turn helps us provide the required treatment regimen as soon as possible, which helps the injured worker begin the process of recovery and eventual return to pre-injury condition.