When low back pain affects a man or woman’s ability to work, the insurance company doctor often states the condition is degenerative disc disease and not work-related.

A degenerative disc disease diagnosis can be a worker’s compensation claim.  The majority of back problems are a result of wear and tear over many years.  Normal aging, smoking, family history, and trauma can all result in degenerative changes in the spine.  Even with all these factors present, the low back pain can still be work related – if a traumatic accident or job duties over time contribute to the condition.

For example, the intervertebral disc changes over time. At first, the jelly donut-like disc is spongy and firm. The nucleus (jelly) in the center is fluid and gives the disc its ability to absorb shock. The first change is the annulus (dough) around the nucleus weakens and begins to develop small cracks and tears. The body tries to heal the cracks with scar tissue. 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 resulting in the vertebrae moving closer together.  This compresses and puts damaging pressure on the facet joints along the back of the spinal column leading to arthritis in the facet joints. These degenerative changes in the disc, facet joints, and ligaments cause the spinal segment to become loose and unstable. The extra movement causes even more wear and tear on the spine. As a result, more and larger tears occur in the annulus. The nucleus may push through the 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.

To get the best results in worker’s compensation claims, [nap_names id=”FIRM-NAME-1″] attorneys review the medical records to see if a work-related accident or job duties over time contributed to the spinal degeneration.