The statistics on back pain are startling. Nearly 80 percent of Americans will suffer from back problems at some point in their lives, which can be worsened by a workplace injury. An accountant who sits sedentary at a desk is just as likely to develop back pain due to poor posture as a construction worker who spends his or her workday lifting heavy objects, bending, and twisting. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 154,180 cases of back injuries that caused days away from work in 2016 alone.
Back pain is a symptom of a spine injury that can range from a constant, dull ache to an agonizing discomfort that affects every area of a person’s life. If you haven’t found relief from back pain with conservative methods, your doctor might recommend back surgery. Depending on your injury, you may need to undergo a minimally invasive procedure or an extensive spine surgery with a longer healing period. If you filed a workers’ compensation claim for a back injury and your doctor has recommended back surgery, here is an overview of what you can expect from recovery.
Spine surgery for a pinched nerve
If most of your pain starts in your lower back and radiates down your leg, you may have a pinched nerve. In this case, you might need a laminectomy, discectomy, or interlaminar implant to relieve the pressure. Back surgery for a pinched nerve is minimally invasive, and recovery is relatively easy compared to a spinal fusion. When you wake up, your back may feel sore but you should notice an immediate improvement in your leg pain.
You’ll be able to go home 1 to 4 days after your spine surgery with instructions to take it easy at first and gradually increase your level of activity. You can expect to return to your normal level of mobility and function within 4 to 6 weeks. Depending on your level of impairment, your doctor may assign you a permanent partial disability rating that will affect your limitations at work.
Spine surgery for lower back injury
A spinal fusion is the most common surgery for a lower back injury. With a spinal fusion, your doctor will join your vertebrae together at the painful segment to limit the motion between them. This places a threshold on how far your nerves can stretch and can considerably improve your symptoms. Surgery for a lower back injury is more extensive than surgery for a pinched nerve, and recovery can take anywhere from 3 to 12 months.
Following a spinal fusion, you’ll be able to go home 1 to 5 days after surgery. You will be given prescription medication for pain relief, and your doctor will provide you with instructions on caring for the incision site. You may be fitted with a back brace to limit motion in the spine during recovery, and you’ll work with physical and occupational therapists to learn the safest ways to perform your daily routine without putting stress on your back. Exercise, beginning with short periods of walking, can help speed up the recovery process.
Back surgery and workers’ compensation
The costs of recovery for back surgery can be staggering. For a back injury sustained on the job, however, all necessary medical treatment should be covered under workers’ compensation, including surgical procedures, physical therapy, prescription medication, and adaptive equipment. You should also receive disability benefits equal to two-thirds of your normal weekly wage while you’re unable to work.
Is back surgery covered by workers’ compensation?
Regardless of whether you had existing back problems, a workplace accident that worsens your condition should be eligible for treatment under workers’ compensation. While there are no guarantees that spine surgery will completely eliminate your back pain, most back surgery candidates experience improved mobility and are able to return to work in some capacity.
At the Law Office of Gerald Brody & Associates, we consider it an honor and a privilege to fight for the rights of injured workers. If you need back surgery and your employer’s insurer is refusing to pay, call us. We’ll review your case for free and advise you on the best course of action. Contact our workers’ compensation attorneys today at (619) 528-9800.