According to the Mayfield Brain and Spine Clinic, roughly 8 out of 10 people suffer from back pain throughout the course of their lives. This also includes herniated discs (also known as slipped discs). This occurs when the gel-like substance encased between the spinal vertebra ruptures and protrudes through the disc wall.
Herniated discs are often age-related and occur due to years of wear and tear on the spine. In addition, the discs dry out and harden over the years. This can put older workers especially at risk.
Younger workers can also sustain herniated discs from using poor posture while lifting or performing repetitive bending, twisting and lifting. Poor workplace ergonomics can contribute to the likelihood of sustaining this type of injury. This is very common among:
- Construction workers
- Manufacturing or warehouse workers
- Retail workers
- Car mechanics
- Manual laborers
- Office workers and others who sit for long periods of time
- Occupational drivers
What are the symptoms of a herniated disc?
The symptoms and severity of a herniated disc can vary depending on the location of the injury and how the body responds to the pain. In most cases, this type of injury occurs in the lumbar spine (lower back) and causes:
- Pain in the lower extremities. A herniated disc in the lower back will cause pain in the lower extremities. This is also referred to as sciatica. The protrusion puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back, through the hips, buttocks, thighs and down to the feet. The pain is often acute, sharp or burning and worsens when walking or sitting in certain positions.
- Numbness, burning and/or tingling. When the nerves in the spine are compressed or pinched, you may experience numbness, burning or tingling in the low back or limbs.
- Weakness. Muscle weakness can occur when certain nerves are pinched or compressed.
In severe cases, a herniated disc can cause debilitating pain, numbness and weakness, as well as bladder or bowel dysfunction.
While herniated discs usually occur in the lumbar spine, about 8 percent of them occur in the cervical (neck) and 1-2 percent occur in the thoracic (upper-to-mid-back).
How are herniated discs diagnosed and treated?
After sustaining a herniated disc on the job, you may not experience any immediate pain. Once you do, it's critical that you promptly notify your employer and get medical attention. To better understand your condition, your doctor will ask about your medical history, prior injuries and any habits that could be contributing to your injury. Your doctor will also perform a physical examination, X-ray, MRI or CT scan to locate the source of the injury.
Depending on the severity of your injury, you may need surgery to repair the damaged disc and remove the pressure placed on the nerves in your spine. Surgery is not always necessary, however. Other treatments for a herniated disc include:
- Prescribed pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medications and/or muscle relaxers
- Steroids to reduce swelling and inflammation of the nerves
- Physical therapy
- Alternative treatments, such as chiropractic care and acupuncture
- Ice and heat therapy
- 4-6 weeks of rest (possibly more)
Contact our San Diego law firm to learn about your eligibility
If you sustained a herniated disc on the job, you may be out of work for several weeks, unable to earn a paycheck and make ends meet. In addition, you may be facing mounting medical costs. As long as your injury occurred within the scope of your employment, you are eligible to collect workers' compensation benefits to pay for your medical expenses and lost wages while you recover.
When pursuing workers' compensation benefits, it's important that you consult with an experienced legal team who knows how the system works. The award-winning attorneys at McLaughlin & Sanchez can help you fill out complex paperwork, obtain all critical documentation, and prepare your case for trial. We offer free and confidential case reviews to clients in the greater San Diego area. Contact us online to get started.