Causes of neck or cervical work injury can be either a traumatic injury or from job duties over time.  McCormick Law Office gets calls from injured workers in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington and Racine counties asking if they have a workers comp claim.  It is not unusual for a primary care physician’s office to not question the possible occupational source of a cervical injury.  To get successful results attorneys should inquire about any specific work-related accidents and then ask about a worker’s job duties, to see if there is a possible relationship between the neck symptoms and the job.  Here is a brief overview of some medical causes of neck pain and how they can be the source of a workers compensation claim.


Most neck problems occur after years of wear and tear on the of the cervical spine. Doctors sometimes call these degenerative changes in the spine spondylosis. Spondylosis is osteoarthritis of the vertebrae and involves the surrounding soft tissues of the spine. While most problems with spondylosis are a normal part of aging it can be aggravated and accelerated by physical job duties.

Degenerative Disc Disease

The normal aging process involves changes within the intervertebral discs. However, repeated stresses and strains from physical job duties may aggravate and accelerated the degeneration.  The nucleus in the center of the disc dries out and the surrounding annulus also weakens and develops small cracks and tears. The disc loses its ability to absorb shock for the spine and job duties can take even more of a toll on the disc and other structures of the spine.

The disc space between the vertebrae becomes smaller, compressing the facet joints along the back of the spinal column. As these joints are forced together, extra pressure builds on the articular cartilage on the surface of the facet joints leading to arthritis.

These degenerative changes in the disc, facet joints, and ligaments cause the spinal segment to become loose and unstable, the disc may bulge out.  In a single traumatic work accident involving lifting or turning, the nucleus may push through the weakened and torn annulus and into the spinal canal. This is called a herniated or ruptured disc. The disc material that squeezes out can press against the spinal nerves. The disc also emits enzymes and chemicals that produce inflammation. The combination of pressure on the nerves and inflammation caused by the chemicals released from the disc cause pain, often down the arm in the case of a cervical disc herniation.  Bone spurs may develop as a response to spinal instability.

Takeaway is that what some doctors and insurance companies think is just normal aging, are also causes of neck or cervical work injury.