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.
Degenerative disc disease is a back injury precipitated and aggravated by physical job duties. Pain in the center of the low back is often the first symptom and it may worsen after heavy physical activity or staying in one posture for a long time. The back may also begin to feel stiff. Resting the back eases pain. At first, symptoms only last a few days but as time goes on it becomes persistent. Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease back pain often comes and goes over the years. Doctors call this recurring back pain. Each time it strikes, the pain may seem worse than the time before. Eventually the pain may spread into the buttocks or thighs, and it may take longer for the pain to subside.
In degenerative disc disease, what parts of the spine are involved? In worker's comp, the area usually involved is the low back or lumbar spine vertebrae. An intervertebral disc sits between each pair of vertebrae. Think of the disc as a jelly donut. The dough or outside is the annulus, made of tough connective tissue fibers called collagen. These fibers help the disc withstand tension and pressure when jump, turn, twist and lift - the kind of things involved in a physical job like warehouse work or construction to name just two. The disc normally works like a shock absorber protecting the spine during strenuous activities.
Workers Comp Degenerative Disc Disease in the low back or lumbar spine is the focus of our work injury law practice. We represent people who have significant low back pain and limitations which prevent them from doing physical labor like they used to. Our job to is prove that the physical job duties of their work contributed to their lumbar degenerative disc disease. The workers compensation insurance company and the IME or independent medical examiner like to deny workers comp claims saying its pre-existing or unrelated to the job. While every case is different and there are no guarantees, our track record speaks for itself. The following blogs will discuss degenerative disc disease so people can better understand how their condition is related to the work they do or did.
Rehabilitation from a degenerative disc disease workers compensation injury depends on whether one has nonsurgical or surgical treatment.
Employees with degenerative disc disease from work duties over time have a workers compensation claim in Wisconsin if a doctor gives an expert opinion confirming causation. Then medical bills and temporary total disability benefits are payable. Very often the workers compensation insurer denies the claim with an independent medical exam or IME and the case proceeds with an attorney helping the injured worker. Most DDD cases are not surgical, but occasionally a fusion is necessary according to the doctors.
Injured workers with degenerative disc disease tend to gradually improve over time. Most do not need surgery. Some studies indicate only one to three percent of patients with degenerative disc problems typically require surgery. Doctors prefer to try nonsurgical treatment for a minimum of three months before considering surgery. If, after this period, nonsurgical treatment hasn't improved symptoms, the doctor may recommend surgery. The main types of surgery for degenerative disc problems include:
Degenerative disc disease treatment for an injured worker is nonsurgical and surgical. Almost all people over a certain age have some degree of degenerative disc disease. The question we are concerned with is whether an employee with a physical job has had his or her DDD aggravated or accelerated by their physical job duties at work over a period of time. If so, then they have a workers compensation claim. This is a medical and legal question which an experienced workers compensation attorney can help determine.
Degenerative disc disease in injured workers is only diagnosed after the worker goes to a doctor because symptoms have gotten to the point where he or she cannot deal with them on their own anymore. This point is likely years after the degenerative process has been slowly developing. Its important to recall that we all have degenerative disc disease to one degree or another. Our focus here is the employee who has a physical job in which his or her job duties have contributed to the acceleration of the degeneration.
Degenerative disc disease symptoms often include pain in the center of the low back as often the first symptom. Injured employees may notice this in the morning before going to work and then in the evening after work. It can starts to affect workers in their twenties or thirties, but is most common in the fifties or sixties. Pain tends to worsen after heavy physical activity or staying in one posture for a long time. The back may also begin to feel stiff. Resting the back eases pain. At first, symptoms only last a few days.