Neck pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal problems, and neck injuries are common in the workplace. While accident-related neck injuries can happen at your Georgia workplace, chronic neck pain is becoming increasingly prevalent due to a significant rise in computer usage in recent years. If you believe that you have suffered an injury at your workplace, contact one of our workers’ compensation lawyers at Gearhart Law Group.
The workers’ compensation system is complicated, and the process of connecting your injury to your current Georgia workplace or work history can be both challenging and frustrating. However, you can rest assured that our specialized workers’ compensation lawyers will make sure your case is handled properly and effectively.
Can I Experience a Neck Injury at My Georgia Workplace?
Unfortunately, neck injuries are common and could happen to anyone while performing work duties. However, work that emphasizes activities like overhead lifting, heavy carrying, or excessive computer use increases the risk of developing a neck injury. This is because these activities can cause repetitive stress to the joints of your neck, and usually involve increased risk of work-related accidents. Some professions more likely to experience neck injuries include construction workers, painters, assembly line workers, and receptionists.
At Gearhart Law Group we proudly represent these workplace-related Neck Injuries:
- Degenerative Disk Disease
- Cervical Radiculopathy
- Cervical Fractures
- Disk Herniation
- Spondylolisthesis or Retrolisthesis
If you’ve suffered a neck injury at your Georgia workplace, or think your workplace is the cause of your current neck injury, contact the Georgia workers’ compensation lawyers at Gearhart Law Group. We can give you the representation that you need, help get you the best treatment for your recovery, and make sure your Georgia employer gives you the benefits that you deserve.
What Neck Injuries Can Happen At My Georgia Workplace?
Your cervical spine, commonly referred to as your neck, is the upper division of your spine that connects your head to your shoulders. The neck is made up of seven bones, called vertebrae, which are separated by fibrocartilaginous pads called intervertebral disks. The structure of the neck allows for high degrees of movement while also being very stable.
Injuries to the neck can occur suddenly during heavy overhead lifting, falling from a ladder, or hitting your head on a counter. However, neck injuries may also develop slowly over time due to repetitive lifting, carrying, or other straining of the neck.
Whether your injury happened suddenly or slowly over time, it’s recommended to contact your trusted healthcare professional for help. Seeking diagnosis and treatment for your injury not only improves your recovery process, but also gives vital supporting information to your workers’ compensation claim.
Common Workplace-Related Neck Injuries
Arthritis refers to inflammation and pain within joints of the body. There are many forms of arthritis, but osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are among the most common. In most cases, OA is more likely to happen at your Georgia workplace.
Developing some amount of OA is normal throughout the lifespan for most people, especially during advanced years. However, repetitive stress on joints due to awkward or heavy movements can speed up the process, eventually leading to OA in the joints of the neck much faster than with normal joint use.
Symptoms of OA in the neck include pain and stiffness with motion, and most people report that symptoms are worse in the morning. Progressive loss of motion including intervertebral rotation, side bending, and extension is very common. In most cases OA can quickly be diagnosed using an X-ray.
Degenerative Disk Disease
Commonly referred to as DDD, degenerative disk disease refers to thinning and breakdown of the intervertebral disks. This injury typically occurs as a natural consequence of aging and regular use of the spine, but can be accelerated at work.
While DDD doesn’t occur during a workplace accident such as slipping or falling, it can still be caused by your work activities. Repetitive stress, strain, and overloading of your neck can seriously accelerate the natural wear of your intervertebral disks, causing excessive breakdown and fragmentation. This is most likely to occur with regular heavy lifting overhead, but may also occur with repetitive bending and twisting activities at work which place a shearing force on the neck.
The most common level affected in DDD is C5/C6 (the disk between the fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae). Symptoms may include pain and stiffness with motion of the neck, limited flexibility of the neck, and discomfort in the neck with prolonged sitting or standing.
Loss of disk height can be diagnosed using X-ray imaging, although specific disk degeneration should be diagnosed using advanced medical imaging such as MRI.
The term radiculopathy describes referred pain into the extremities due to an irritated nerve root. A cervical radiculopathy occurs when a nerve root in the neck becomes irritated and triggers referred pain down the shoulder and arm. This is usually caused by stenosis (narrowing) around the nerve or a disk herniation pushing on the nerve root.
Symptoms of cervical radiculopathy include pain in the shoulder, arm, or hand in the absence of known injury. Pain is usually described as burning, stinging, or even lightning-like, and may include paresthesia (numbness and tingling) in the arm at rest. In some cases weakness of the shoulder, arm, or hand may develop and can be measured using a force plate.
Cervical radiculopathy is usually diagnosed using a combination of MRI to assess compression of the nerve root, and nerve conduction testing to determine changes to nerve root function.
Fractures of the cervical spine may occur at any level but most commonly occur at the bottom of the cervical spine (C6 or C7) and at the level of the second vertebra (C2). These injuries may occur as stress fractures or full fractures.
Stress fractures (also called hairline fractures) are small cracks in bone that develop due to excessive stress. These may develop during an accident at work such as a fall or crash, or slowly with repetitive and excessive load on the neck during work activities.
Full fractures (displaced and non-displaced) of the neck typically occur during serious accidents at work including falls, vehicle crashes, and direct trauma to the head or neck from a falling object.
Fractures of the neck can be life threatening and must be accurately diagnosed using medical imaging such as an X-ray immediately. If you think you have fractured a bone in your neck, seek medical attention immediately.
The intervertebral disks are composed of several fibrous rings (the annulus fibrosus) and a relatively soft center (the nucleus pulposus). When the soft center of an intervertebral disk is pushed through the surrounding layers and out of the disk, it is referred to as a disk herniation or disk extrusion. Disk bulges are similar to disk herniations, though in this case the center of the disk has not pushed out entirely.
Disk herniations usually occur due to a sudden force that puts pressure on the disk and forces it to push its center outwards. This usually happens at work during heavy lifting or twisting, but may also occur during a fall.
Symptoms of a disk herniation include profound soreness of the neck with radiating pain through the shoulder, arm, and hand on the affected side. Similar to other forms of radiculopathy, paresthesia and weakness may be present in the upper extremity.
Disk herniations are diagnosed using MRI, although X-ray may be used to rule out stress fractures of the neck initially.
Spondylolisthesis or Retrolisthesis
The bones of the neck function optimally when they are lined up evenly. When one vertebra is shifted anteriorly (forward), it is referred to as a spondylolisthesis. When one vertebra is shifted posteriorly (backward), it is called a retrolisthesis.
Both spondylolisthesis and retrolisthesis occur due to changes in the joints connecting the vertebrae of the neck, allowing the vertebrae to shift out of alignment. These changes can occur at work due to repetitive stress on the joints during bending and lifting, or as a result of sudden trauma or shearing on the joints of the vertebrae.
Symptoms of spondylolisthesis and retrolisthesis may include painful bending or extending the neck and deep soreness in the neck at the level of injury. Because slipping of the vertebra may place direct pressure on the spinal cord, you may also experience radiating pain or weakness into both arm – this may only occur during motion in early stages, but could become constant as the injury progresses.
Both of these problems can be diagnosed using X-ray imaging, although MRI is required to determine if a vertebrae is compressing the spinal cord.
Are Treatments Available for My Neck Injury?
Many common neck injuries are highly treatable with the expectation of full or partial return to work. However, exact outcomes will vary depending on the nature and severity of your injury. In all cases, seeking diagnosis and establishing a treatment plan is the first step to completing your workers’ compensation claim.
For many neck injuries, your doctor will recommend physical therapy to rehabilitate your neck injury and help you return to work. Physical therapy sessions will focus on progressive exercise to maximize range of motion and strength in your neck, and may include modalities or education for pain management. For certain neck injuries, your medical doctor or physical therapist may prescribe a neck brace or collar to optimize the healing process.
For neck injuries that do not improve initially with physical therapy, a steroid injection may be used to reduce inflammation and maximize participation in physical therapy. Advanced injuries including severe DDD, fractures, and disk herniations may require surgical intervention. Common surgeries for the hip include microdiscectomy, cervical fusion, and cervical disk replacement.
Microdiscectomy is a procedure that is performed when a disk herniation is causing significant symptoms and is not resolving with physical therapy. During a microdiscectomy, the protruding disk is “clipped” to facilitate closing and healing of the intervertebral disk walls.
Cervical fusion is a complex procedure that is performed when disk degeneration or vertebral degeneration becomes severely symptomatic and dangerous to the spinal cord. In this procedure, multiple vertebrae are fused together to prevent movement of the vertebrae and impingement of the spinal cord.
Cervical disk replacement is a relatively new surgery that is performed when disk degeneration or herniation cause severe or chronic problems. In this procedure the natural intervertebral disk is removed and an artificial disk is installed in replacement.
Physical therapy is usually prescribed to restore normal function of your neck after a surgery. You may also be prescribed medications or adaptive equipment for pain or other symptoms after surgery. All of these costs should be paid for by your employer if your injury is work-related.
Returning to Work with Light Duty Work Restrictions
If you have work restrictions that limit your ability to perform the work you were doing prior to your neck injury at work, your employer may be able to accommodate those restrictions and offer you a job that you can perform with your temporary limitations. Your employer is not required to offer you a job within your restrictions—but if they are unable to, they must pay you temporary total disability until your doctor determines that you are released to go back to full duty work.
In some cases, these light duty jobs pay less than what you were earning in your prior position. Under Georgia workers’ compensation law, you may be owed additional compensation of two-thirds of the difference in wages. This benefit is currently capped at $483 per week as of July 1, 2022.
Get Your Free Case Consultation
If you’ve suffered a neck injury and need legal advice, contact the best workers’ compensation attorney in Georgia. Beth Gearhart listens and cares about her clients. Beth is available every day to discuss your case and provide you with your options. She is dedicated to positive outcomes and only gets paid if you receive a settlement. You do not need to pay anything up front to discuss your case and explore your options.