Yes, job duties cause spinal stenosis in certain circumstances. This is the conclusion of the best medical evidence as reported in scholarly papers. For example, a well-known article in Spine in March 1995, sought to understand the long-term effects of exercise on low back pain and spinal stenosis. The results showed weight lifters and soccer players had higher rates of deterioration as shown on MRI results than runners and nonathletes.

Questionnaires were returned by 937 former elite athletes and 620 control subjects (83% response rate). Identification codes allowed record linkage to hospital discharge and pension registers. Magnetic resonance images were obtained of selected subgroups with contrasting physical loading patterns. Maximal weight lifting was associated with greater spine degeneration throughout the entire lumbar spine, and soccer with degeneration in the lower lumbar region. See: The Long-Term Effects of Physical Loading and Exercise Lifestyles on Back-Related Symptoms, Disability, and Spinal Pathology Among Men, Spine, March 1995.

Work-related spinal stenosis usually develops slowly over a long period of time. This is because the main cause of spinal stenosis is spinal degeneration with aging combined with activity. This is why older workers have spinal stenosis more often than younger workers. Symptoms rarely develop quickly when degeneration is the source of the problem. A severe injury or a herniated disc may cause symptoms to develop immediately.

Patients with stenosis don’t always feel back pain. Primarily, they have severe pain and weakness in their legs, usually in both legs at the same time. Some people say they feel that their legs are going to give out on them.

Symptoms mainly affect sensation in the lower limbs. Nerve pressure from stenosis can cause a feeling of pins and needles in the skin where the spinal nerves travel. Reflexes become slowed. Some patients report charley horses in their leg muscles. Others report strange sensations like water trickling down their legs.

Symptoms change with the position of the low back. Flexion (bending forward) widens the spinal canal and usually eases symptoms. That’s why people with stenosis tend to get relief when they sit down or curl up to sleep. Activities such as reaching up, standing, and walking require the spine to straighten or even extend (bend back slightly). This position of the low back makes the spinal canal smaller and often worsens symptoms.

McCormick Law Office attorneys get the best results in workers compensation spinal stenosis cases where employees job duties over time contribute to the stenosis and/or where a single traumatic work accident accelerates the condition beyond normal progression. The worker with spinal stenosis should not simply accept the IME doctor’s opinion that it is not work-related. Speak to an expert before making a final workers compensation decision.