For work-related degenerative disc disease, what treatment options must the insurance company cover? In Wisconsin, the worker's compensation insurer is responsible to pay for medical treatment as may be reasonably required to cure and relieve the injured worker from the effects of the work injury. Wis. Stats. Sec. 102.42.
Whenever possible, doctors prefer treatment other than surgery. The first goal of nonsurgical treatment is to ease pain and other symptoms so the patient can resume normal activities as soon as possible. Doctors rarely prescribe bed rest for patients with degenerative disc problems. Instead, patients are encouraged to do their normal activities using pain as a gauge for how much is too much. If symptoms are severe, a maximum of two days of bed rest may be prescribed.
Back braces are sometimes prescribed. Keeping the moving parts of the low back still can help calm mechanical pain. When a doctor issues a brace, he or she normally asks that the patient to only wear it for a limited amount of time. This lessens the chance that the trunk muscles will shrink (atrophy) from relying on the belt.
Patients may also be prescribed medication to help them gain control of their symptoms so they can resume normal activity swiftly. Often pain meds or muscle relaxers are used in conjunction with therapy. Injured workers often work with a physical therapist to recover, even while working light duty. After evaluating a patient's condition, the therapist can assign positions and exercises to ease symptoms. The therapist can design an exercise program to improve flexibility of tight muscles, to strengthen the back and abdominal muscles, and to help a patient move safely and with less pain.
If symptoms continue to limit a person's ability to function normally, the doctor may suggest an epidural steroid injection (ESI). Steroids are powerful anti-inflammatories, meaning they help reduce pain and swelling. In an ESI, medication is injected into the space around the lumbar nerve roots. This area is called the epidural space. Some doctors inject only a steroid. Most doctors, however, combine a steroid with a long-lasting numbing medication. Generally, an ESI is given only when other treatments aren't working. But ESIs are not always successful in relieving pain. If they do work, they often only provide temporary relief.
The Milwaukee, Wisconsin attorneys at McCormick Law Office have extensive experience representing workers with degenerative disc disease. Every case is unique but given the right facts and medical opinions, a winning case can be made. A free telephone consultation is the first step in determining if we can help with your workers compensation back injury case.