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Decoding Back Pain: How New Jersey Workers
Can Recognize Serious Work-Related Back Injuries

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Work-related back injuries can have a significant impact on your well-being and ability to perform your job. Recognizing the signs of a serious work-related back injury and knowing how to respond promptly is crucial for your recovery and potential workers’ compensation claim. In fact, back claims are not only common injuries on the job but also some of the most debilitating medical issues of your life. 

Worker arches backward and grips back in agony after work accident causes extreme pain in the lumbar region of the spine

Back Injuries at Work: Don’t Ignore the Pain

Many workers mistakenly think these injuries aren’t serious enough for workers’ compensation. However, it’s crucial to take every back injury seriously and seek medical attention. Even a slight ache might be the first sign of a more severe muscle tear or spinal cord injury.

Imagine this: Sarah, an office worker, starts experiencing lower back pain after lifting a heavy box while reorganizing the office supplies. At first, she brushes it off, thinking it’s just a minor strain. But the pain persists, and soon, she finds it challenging to sit or stand comfortably for long periods. Unsure of what to do, Sarah continues to work through the pain, hoping it will improve on its own.

However, Sarah’s back injury worsens, affecting her ability to perform her job effectively. She finally decides to see a doctor, who diagnoses her with a herniated disc, a specific back injury caused by the lifting incident at work. Now, Sarah is facing weeks off work and mounting medical bills.

Back injuries can affect workers in various industries, from office workers like Sarah to retail clerks and construction site mechanics. Whether it’s due to a single incident or accumulated strain over time, these injuries are a leading cause of work absences.

Understanding Work-Related Back Injuries

Imagine you’re Mike, a warehouse worker in Newark. One day, while lifting a heavy box, you feel a sharp, sudden pain in your back. This is your story and the journey to understand back injuries.

Your spine is like a tall, winding highway in your body. It’s made up of small bones stacked on top of each other. These bones are called vertebrae. Between them are discs, a bit like jelly-filled donuts. These discs give your back the ability to bend and twist.

But sometimes, things go wrong, like that day in the warehouse for Mike. Lifting the heavy box might have caused what we call a ‘sprain’ or ‘strain.’ That’s when the muscles or ligaments in the back stretch too far or tear. The pain can be intense.

But there’s more than just sprains or strains. Discs between the vertebrae can rupture or bulge. We call this a ‘herniated disc’. It’s like squeezing a jelly donut, and the jelly pushes out. This can put pressure on the nerves in the back. It can cause pain, numbness, or weakness.

Mike started feeling a constant, sharp pain in his back. He also felt a tingling sensation in his legs. This is a warning sign. It’s a signal that his back injury might be serious.

If you’re like Mike and experience these symptoms, taking immediate steps is important. First, tell your supervisor or employer about the injury. Even if you think it might be a minor injury, it’s better to report it.  Next, seek medical attention right away. A doctor can examine your back. They can ask about the pain, numbness, or weakness. They can also order tests like an X-ray or MRI. These tests can show if there’s damage to the vertebrae, discs, or nerves in your back.

In Mike’s case, he took these steps. He reported his injury and saw a doctor. The doctor ordered an MRI. The results showed a herniated disc. This confirmed that Mike’s back injury was indeed serious.

Remember, understanding back injuries is like knowing the signs on the highway. Recognizing these signs can help you navigate the road to recovery.

Recognizing Warning Signs of a
Serious Work-Related Back Injury

Early recognition of warning signs is vital for timely intervention. If you experience any of the following symptoms after a work-related incident, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Persistent and severe back pain that worsens over time
 
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs
 
  • Pain radiating down the leg (sciatica)
 
  • Difficulty walking or maintaining balance
 
  • Trouble relieving yourself or burning sensations during urination
Physician prepares for clinical evaluation of injured worker by first reviewing the results of diagnostic test results of the back

Role of Diagnostic Tests in NJ Workers Comp

Let’s go back to Mike’s story. After his doctor examined his back and listened to his symptoms, they ordered an MRI. Now, you might be wondering, what’s an MRI?

MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Think of it like a super-powered camera. It takes detailed pictures of the inside of your body. But instead of using light, it uses powerful magnets and radio waves.

The MRI images can show a detailed picture of Mike’s spine. They can show if a disc is bulging or ruptured, pressing on a nerve. This is crucial in diagnosing serious back injuries like Mike’s.

But there’s more than just MRIs. Doctors may also use X-rays or CT scans. X-rays are like the earliest cameras. They take black-and-white pictures of your bones. A CT scan, on the other hand, is more like a 3D camera. It can capture images of bones, muscles, fat, and organs.

In Mike’s case, the MRI showed a herniated disc. This confirmed that his back injury was serious. And it wasn’t just the pain telling him that. It was a real, visible problem in the images.

Now, you might ask, why do these tests matter? First, they help doctors determine the best treatment for your back injury. For example, based on the MRI results, Mike’s doctor could recommend physical therapy, medication, or even surgery.

Second, these tests play a big role in workers’ compensation claims in New Jersey. The images serve as evidence. They show that the injury is related to your work. They help prove your claim is valid.

In Mike’s case, his workers’ compensation attorney used the MRI results. They showed the herniated disc was due to the heavy lifting at work. This strengthened Mike’s claim, helping him get the compensation he needed.

Remember, understanding the role of diagnostic tests is key. They’re not just tools for doctors. They’re also important for your workers’ compensation claim.

Taking Immediate Action for a Work-Related Back Injury

Work-related back injuries require swift action to ensure proper treatment and protect your rights for potential workers’ compensation. If you suffer a work-related back injury, take the following steps promptly:

Report the injury to your employer

Inform your employer about the incident as soon as the injury occurs or becomes evident. Prompt reporting is essential to initiate the workers’ compensation process. It is important that you let your employer know immediately. Your employer should contact the workers’ compensation carrier and determine whether to provide medical care.

Seek medical treatment

Do not delay seeking medical attention for your work-related back injury. Early intervention can, at times, prevent further complications. And improve your chances of a successful recovery.  The workers’ compensation insurance carrier will authorize your treatment and the treatment provider.  

Follow medical advice

Adhere to your healthcare provider’s instructions and treatment plan diligently. Whether it involves rest, medication, physical therapy, or other forms of treatment, following medical advice is crucial for a smooth recovery process. Proper care and rehabilitation are vital in restoring your back’s health and functionality.

Reach out to a workers' comp attorney

If your work-related back injury leads to a claim denial or dispute, consider seeking assistance from a workers’ comp attorney. Hiring the right attorney can significantly increase your chances of receiving fair compensation for your work-related back injury.

Remember, work-related back injuries can have a significant impact on your well-being and ability to perform your job. Taking immediate action by reporting the injury, seeking medical treatment promptly, following medical advice, and reaching out to a workers’ comp attorney if needed can make a significant difference in your recovery and ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.

Infographic Summary of Article

Key guidelines for a New Jersey workers on how to recognize a serious work-related back injuries

"I've been unfortunate enough to be working, and recovering froma few injuries now and again."

John F. Renner: A Quarter Century of Workers Compensation Experience Available for You

Understanding workers’ compensation laws in New Jersey can take substantial time and effort. You may not know whether you are getting the compensation you deserve. Not to mention, the advice you may receive from other sources often does not reflect the unique nature of your case. 

Take your time to find the best attorney to help with your case. Having someone with a deep understanding of New Jersey’s workers’ compensation laws would be best. But most importantly, you need someone who can empathize with you and is present to guide you in every step of the legal process.

Mr. John F. Renner has been practicing workers’ compensation law in New Jersey for over 25 years. He knows the intricacies tied to New Jersey’s workers’ compensation laws. On top of that, he has worked with hundreds of clients, each getting the attention and guidance they all deserve. Make sure your rights are protected. Call his office now at (856) 596-8000. We have your back.

 

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About the Author

John F. Renner is the founding attorney and principal of John F. Renner P.C. He has more than 25 years of experience representing injured workers in New Jersey. Mr. Renner guides his clients through the complex maze of New Jersey Workers Compensation Law for the best possible outcome.

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