In degenerative disc disease, what parts of the spine are involved? In worker’s comp, the area usually involved is the low back or lumbar spine vertebrae. An intervertebral disc sits between each pair of vertebrae. Think of the disc as a jelly donut. The dough or outside is the annulus, made of tough connective tissue fibers called collagen. These fibers help the disc withstand tension and pressure when jump, turn, twist and lift – the kind of things involved in a physical job like warehouse work or construction to name just two. The disc normally works like a shock absorber protecting the spine during strenuous activities.
The other part of the disc, the jelly in the center of the donut, is called the nucleus, a spongy center providing most of the disc’s ability to absorb shock. It is held in place by the annulus, a series of strong ligament rings surrounding it. Ligaments are connective tissues that attach bones to other bones.
Injured workers ask, why do I have degenerative disc disease? As noted in another blog, we all have it to a degree. The question for the injured worker is did our job duties accelerate or aggravate the condition beyond normal progression? If yes, then workers compensation benefits should be there to cover bills and time off, as well as any permanent disability percentage. Daily wear and tear on your job can speed up degeneration in the spine.
Disc degeneration follows a predictable pattern. First, the nucleus in the center of the disc begins to lose its ability to absorb water. The disc becomes dehydrated. Then the nucleus becomes thick and fibrous, so that it looks much the same as the annulus. As a result, the nucleus isn’t able to absorb shock as well. Routine stress and strain begin to take a toll on the structures of the spine. Tears form around the annulus. The disc weakens. It starts to collapse, and the bones of the spine compress. This degeneration does not always mean the disc becomes a source of pain. The pain caused by degenerative disc disease is mainly mechanical pain, meaning it comes from the parts of the spine that move during activity: the discs, ligaments, and facet joints. Movement within the weakened structures of the spine causes them to become irritated and painful. That is why the worker feels worse at the end of a long day at work.
If an IME doctor denies your workers comp based upon degenerative disc disease it is not the final word. McCormick Law Office gets the best workers compensation attorney results in Milwaukee, Wisconsin when the treating doctor or surgeon agrees with physical job duties aggravating degenerative disc disease.