Is degenerative disc disease work related and covered by workers compensation in Wisconsin. Yes, if a traumatic work accident caused the degeneration to accelerate beyond normal progression or if the degeneration itself was contributed to by your job duties over time. With this in mind, its important that your workers’ compensation attorney understand the medicine of degenerative disc disease in the low back.
The intervertebral disc changes over time. At first, the disc is spongy and firm. The nucleus in the center of the disc contains a great deal of water. This gives the disc its ability to absorb shock and protect the spine from heavy and repeated forces.
The first change that occurs is that the annulus around the nucleus weakens and begins to develop small cracks and tears. The body tries to heal the cracks with scar tissue. But scar tissue is not as strong as the tissue it replaces. The torn annulus can be a source of pain for two reasons. First, there are pain sensors in the outer rim of the annulus. They signal a painful response when the tear reaches the outer edge of the annulus. Second, like injuries to other tissues in the body, a tear in the annulus can cause pain due to inflammation. With time, the disc begins to lose water, causing it to lose some of its fullness and height. As a result, the vertebrae begin to move closer together.
As the disc continues to degenerate, the space between the vertebrae shrinks. This compresses 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. This extra pressure can damage the facet joints. Over time, this may lead to arthritis in the facet joints.
These degenerative disc disease changes in the disc, facet joints, and ligaments cause the spinal segment to become loose and unstable. As a result, more and larger tears occur in the annulus.
Most workers compensation claim happen when a person suffers a single traumatic accident or injury at work. With the low back pain, a worker may be lifting, often while bending or turning, when they feel a pinch or pain in the low back, followed immediately or up to weeks later, shooting pain down one or both legs. In other cases, there is no single injury or accident, but low back or leg pain that develops over time. Every day, honest and hardworking people stop working without pursuing legitimate workers comp benefits.
McCormick Law Office attorneys in Milwaukee, Wisconsin have represented thousands of injured workers recovering millions of dollars in worker’s compensation benefits for our clients.