Degenerative disc disease treatment for an injured worker is nonsurgical and surgical. Almost all people over a certain age have some degree of degenerative disc disease. The question we are concerned with is whether an employee with a physical job has had his or her DDD aggravated or accelerated by their physical job duties at work over a period of time. If so, then they have a workers compensation claim. This is a medical and legal question which an experienced workers compensation attorney can help determine.
Whenever possible, doctors prefer treatment other than surgery. The first goal of nonsurgical treatment is to ease pain and other symptoms so the patient can resume normal activities as soon as possible.
Doctors rarely prescribe bed rest for patients with degenerative disc problems. Instead, patients are encouraged to do their normal activities using pain as a gauge for how much is too much. If symptoms are severe, a maximum of two days of bed rest may be prescribed. At times, an injured worker may be taken off work altogether or given light duty work restrictions requiring limited work.
Back braces are sometimes prescribed. Keeping the moving parts of the low back still can help calm mechanical pain. When a doctor issues a brace, he or she normally asks that the patient only wear it for two to four days. This lessens the chance that the trunk muscles will shrink (atrophy) from relying on the belt.
Patients may also be prescribed medication to help them gain control of their symptoms so they can resume normal activity swiftly.
If symptoms continue to limit a person’s ability to function normally, the doctor may suggest an epidural steroid injection (ESI). Steroids are powerful anti-inflammatories, meaning they help reduce pain and swelling. In an ESI, medication is injected into the space around the lumbar nerve roots. This area is called the epidural space. Some doctors inject only a steroid. Most doctors, however, combine a steroid with a long-lasting numbing medication. Generally, an ESI is given only when other treatments aren’t working. But ESIs are not always successful in relieving pain. If they do work, they often only provide temporary relief.
In addition, patients often work with a physical therapist. After evaluating a patient’s condition, the therapist can assign positions and exercises to ease symptoms. The therapist can design an exercise program to improve flexibility of tight muscles, to strengthen the back and abdominal muscles, and to help a patient move safely and with less pain.
McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin works with men and women who have degenerative disc disease due to job duties over time. The insurance company’s determination is not final.