Is that work injury to your back really just a sprain?

A recent study has found that initial work injury reports of a “strain” or “sprain” may not be reliable indicators of the extent of the injury. According to recent research by the California Workers’ Compensation Institute, approximately 20 percent of workers’ comp cases involving a back strain or sprain ultimately required spinal fusion surgery within two years.

The data is important, as back pain is an extremely common ailment in workers. According to the Cleveland Clinic, back pain is the second-most reported medical condition, behind only headaches.

What is spinal fusion surgery?

A spinal fusion surgery is designed to decrease pain by stopping the motion of a vertebral segment by connecting two or more vertebrae in the spine. In other words, it is back surgery that mimics the body’s natural way to heal broken bones by putting bone-like material in between two vertebrae. Spinal fusion surgery can help reduce pain, but it also can change the way your spine moves, meaning it can increase degeneration in other parts of your spine, according to the Mayo Clinic.

A strain or a sprain, on the other hand, involves muscles and ligaments, respectively. While painful, a strain or a sprain does not need surgery to heal.

Causes of back injury at work

Because the back is a complicated structure, various accidents and motions can cause back injury. Accidents and heavy lifting are primary causes. In addition, repetitive motions, poor ergonomics (bad chairs, posture, etc.) are frequent causes of back injury. Determining the extent of your injury can be difficult initially.

Knowledge is important

If you are experiencing back pain due to a work injury, you have legal rights. However, the failure to know and exercise your rights can hurt your ability to obtain workers’ compensation. Keep in mind that workers’ compensation is not tied to fault. In other words, certain factors that can increase risk for back injury, such as weight, do not factor into a workers’ comp determination. Neither does your role in an accident, with a few exceptions such as intoxication.

However, as an insurance system, workers’ compensation often seeks to minimize the extent of workers’ injuries. For example, a workers’ compensation doctor, paid for by the insurance company, will often initially diagnose a sprain or a strain, even if the injury has the potential to be more serious.

That is why it is important to get help from an experienced workers’ compensation attorney if you become injured through a work accident or repetitive stress.

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