Insurance companies usually argue that spondylolysis is not work-related and they deny coverage under workers compensation. Its not that clear cut and can in fact be work-related. Spondylolysis happens when a crack forms in the bony ring on the back of the spinal column. Most commonly, this occurs in the low back. In this condition, the bone that protects the spinal cord fractures as a result of excessive or repeated strain. The area affected is called the pars interarticularis, so doctors sometimes refer to this condition as a pars defect.
Spondylolysis is thought to be caused by repeated strains that damage the lower spine over time. The repeated strains can eventually lead to an overuse injury in the pars interarticularis. This could come from physical job duties over time.
The vertebra initially responds to the abnormal strain by adding new bone cells around the injured area. But if the injuries happen faster than the body can keep up with needed repairs, a crack may form in the weakened bone. This is called a stress fracture. This type of fracture occurs in the pars, the area of bony ring between the pedicle and lamina.
The crack may affect only one side of the bony ring. However, it is equally common for the defect to occur on both sides. When this happens, the vertebra is no longer held firmly in place by the facet joints on the back of the ring. As a result, the vertebra is free to slip forward over the one below. This slippage, which is closely related to spondylolysis, is called spondylolisthesis.
People with spondylolysis may feel pain and stiffness in the center of the low back. Bending fully backward increases pain. Symptoms typically get worse with activity and go away with rest. Doctors refer to this type of back pain as mechanical pain because it most likely comes from excess movement between the vertebrae.
Individuals may eventually experience pain that radiates down one or both legs. This pain may come from pressure and irritation on the nerves that exit the spinal canal near the fracture. When nerve pressure in the low back causes leg pain, doctors refer it as neurogenic pain.
Recommended treatment often includes rest, possibly a brace and physical therapy. Surgery is a last resort consisting of laminectomy or fusion. If there are work-related permanent restrictions due to the spondylolysis, it could result in loss of earning capacity or vocational retraining workers compensation benefits.
At McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin our attorneys have successfully obtained benefits for work-related spondylolysis, but every case is different. To win there must be a traumatic injury or job duties consistent with spondylolysis and expert medical opinion.