Spondylolysis is an anatomical deficit in the bony ring of the vertebrae on the back of the spinal column. Insurance company doctors, IME, almost always say spondylolysis is congenital and not related to work. Its not that simple and a careful look at all the facts can determine a work-related basis for a workers compensation claim. Spondylolysis may cause workers to feel pain and stiffness in the center of the low back. Extending or bending 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.
Workers may develop 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, it called neurogenic pain. The cause of this nerve pressure is a result of the body’s attempt to heal the stress fracture. Over time, the healing process may cause a bump of extra cartilage to grow at the site where the bones are trying to heal the overuse injury. If too much cartilage builds up, this bump may intrude into the opening where the nerves exit the spine. The bump may squeeze the nerve. This can produce pain and weakness in the leg. Reflexes become slowed. The person may also notice a pins and needles sensation in the skin where the spinal nerve travels. Also, there can be other degenerative factors contributing to occlusion or stenosis where the nerve exits the spinal canal at the neural foraminal opening. The degeneration may be osteophytes, bulging discs, a hypertrophic ligamentum flavum (ligaments or connective tissue which run up and down the spine holding the vertebrae together) or bone spurs. All these degenerative conditions can be contributed to or aggravated by an employee’s physical job duties.
Documentation in the medical records and employment file that show a connection between the pain or weakness symptoms and the job duties is very informative and helpful in proving a condition like spondylolysis is work-related. Another trustworthy piece of information is an accurate and thorough job description which details the job duties including the exertion level, frequency and duration of the tasks involved.
McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin represents low back workers compensation claims involving spondylolysis for medical treatment, medical bills, temporary and permanent disability benefits, loss of earning capacity benefits and permanent total disability benefits. Spondylolysis can have a genetic etiology as well, the question is whether the job duties contributed to the condition to where it needed medical treatment and became disabling.