Common Workplace Injuries
Back injuries are one of the most common work-related injuries and can also be one of the most serious. Many times a single event, such as lifting a heavy box, will result in a back injury. Work that requires repetitive motions like bending or lifting may also cause back injuries. Sometimes, workers may aggravate a pre-existing back condition while they are performing their normal work activities or because of an accident.
Most back injuries are successfully treated with conservative methods like medication or physical therapy. Surgery is sometimes required when these types of treatments are not successful.
Some workers’ compensation insurance carriers may deny a claim for a back injury because of a pre-existing condition. If your claim is being denied for this reason, consider contacting an attorney; you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if your pre-existing condition was aggravated by your job duties.
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD)
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD), also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), is a chronic neurological syndrome which involves severe burning pain, tissue swelling or extreme sensitivity to touch. RSD develops in response to an event the body regards as traumatic, such as an accident or medical procedure. RSD may follow up to 5% of all injuries. Because RSD can result from many types of injuries—including sprains, falls, or minor injuries—RSD can also result from work-related accidents.
Like fibromyalgia, many doctors are not aware of the signs of RSD and people with RSD may see an average of five physicians before they are accurately diagnosed. Treatment for RSD may include medication, physical therapy, psychological support, sympathetic nerve blocks and spinal cord stimulators or morphine pumps. Due to many misunderstandings about RSD, workers’ compensation insurance carriers will often deny injured workers’ claims for RSD following a work injury.
Tendonitis is usually seen after excessive repetitive movement with which the tendon gradually becomes tighter until the fibers that make up tendons start to tear. Tendonitis is a common workplace injury; especially for workers whose job duties involve repetitive motion. Workers whose jobs include tasks constant lifting, pushing, pulling, or squatting may overuse their muscles, which may lead to the development of tendonitis. The most common tendon areas that become inflamed are the elbow, wrist, biceps, shoulder leg, knee, ankle, hip, and Achilles.
A stress fracture is an injury that results from overuse and occurs when muscles become fatigued and are unable to absorb added shock. Eventually, the fatigued muscle transfers the overload of stress to the bone causing a tiny crack called a stress fracture. The most important treatment for a stress fracture is rest. Injured workers who have stress fractures should rest from the activity that caused the stress fracture, and engage in a pain-free activity during the six to eight weeks it takes most stress fractures to heal.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a medical condition in which nerves in the wrist are compressed. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include a burning or tingling sensation in the fingers, numbness, difficulty gripping or making a fist, dropping objects, and general weakness in the hands or wrists. If carpal tunnel syndrome is untreated, increased pain and weakness can further restrict hand function.
In the United States, carpal tunnel syndrome is the biggest single contributing factor to lost time at work.
Traumatic Brain Injury
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can significantly affect many cognitive, physical, and psychological skills. Most traumatic brain injuries result in widespread damage to the brain because the brain acts like a ping-pong ball inside the skull during the impact of an accident.
It is sometimes difficult to understand the immediate impact of a traumatic brain injury, since the effects of this injury are very different in every person. However, a traumatic brain injury will often require life-long medical and psychological care.
Toxic mold has been called the “new asbestos” because of potential health risks from exposure, the cost of care, and the risk of lawsuits. There are several different varieties of mold that can cause health problems, including—but not limited to—chronic bronchitis, learning disabilities, mental deficiencies, heart problems, cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, lupus, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple chemical sensitivity, and bleeding lungs.
Shoulder or Knee Injuries
The shoulder is a common area where injuries occur. Some of the more common injuries to the shoulder include muscle strains, rotator cuff tears, bursitis/tendonitis, and separated and dislocated shoulders. The injuries can range from minor to very serious.
Shoulder injuries are commonly seen as a result of workplace accidents. These injuries can result from one particular incident or develop over time as a result of repetitive use of the arm.
Knees are also common sites for workplace injuries. While there are four bones that come together at the knee, only the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone) form the joint itself. The head of the fibula (strut bone on the outside of the leg) provides some stability, and the patella (kneecap) helps with joint function. Movement and weight-bearing occur where the ends of the femur called the femoral condyles match up with the top flat surfaces of the tibia (tibial plateaus).
There are two major muscle groups that are balanced and allow movement of the knee joint. Contracting the quadriceps muscles on the front of the thigh extends the knee, while the hamstring muscles on the back of the thigh flex the knee when they contract. The muscles cross the knee joint and are attached to the tibia by tendons. The quadriceps tendon is a little special, in that it contains the patella within it. The patella allows the quadriceps muscle/tendon unit to work more efficiently. This tendon is renamed the patellar tendon in the area below the kneecap to its attachment to the tibia.
The stability of the knee joint is maintained by four ligaments, thick bands of tissue that stabilize the joint. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) are on the sides of the knee and prevent the joint from sliding sideways. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) form an “X” on the inside of the knee and prevent the knee from sliding back and forth. These limitations on knee movement allow the knee to concentrate the forces of the muscles on flexion and extension.
Inside the knee, there are two shock-absorbing pieces of cartilage called menisci (singular meniscus) that sit on the top surface of the tibia. The menisci allow the femoral condyle to move on the tibial surface without friction, preventing the bones from rubbing on each other.
Bursas surround the knee joint and are fluid filled sacs that cushion the knee during its range of motion. In the front of the knee, there is a bursa between the skin and the kneecap called the prepatellar bursa and another above the kneecap called the suprapatellar bursa (supra=above).
Each part of the anatomy needs to function properly for the knee to work. Acute injury and trauma as well as chronic overuse can both cause inflammation and its accompanying symptoms of pain, swelling, redness and warmth.
Joint Replacement (shoulder, knee and hip injuries)
Injuries to joints, especially knees, shoulders and hips, occur in workplaces everyday. Joint injuries may be the result of repetitive motion activities or an aggravation of a pre-existing condition, like arthritis. If pain cannot be managed through medication and physical therapy, some workers may be candidates for joint replacement.
People who suffer from joint pain are often concerned about how long an implant will last and want to avoid a second surgery. However, surgeons are beginning to recommend joint replacement to younger patients in order to reduce pain and increase mobility later in life.
Workers with joint injuries who are thinking about a joint replacement should consider the impact their pain has on their ability to work or enjoy hobbies, whether or not the pain is persistent, and the failure of non-surgical treatments.
Workers’ compensation insurance carriers are often reluctant to authorize joint replacement surgeries for injured workers because they are costly and sometimes require numerous surgeries. Consider contacting an attorney if your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier will not authorize your surgery or if you have been offered a settlement and may need a joint replacement in the future.
Many work-related injuries result in chronic pain. Chronic pain is generally defined as painful symptoms from the work related injury that remain with the worker for at least two (2) months after the work related injury. For workers with permanent chronic pain (pain that will probably never go away), the worker may be entitled to a settlement under the Indiana workers’ compensation system. For more serious cases of chronic pain, the worker may also be eligible for future medical care.
Spinal Cord Stimulators
Spinal cord stimulation is a procedure that uses an electrical current to treat chronic pain. To treat chronic low back pain, a small pulse generator, implanted in the back, transmits electrical pulses to the spinal cord. These pulses interfere with the nerve impulses responsible for leg pain due to nerve damage (sciatica)
Implanting the stimulator is considered to be a simple procedure, typically done using a local anesthetic and a sedative.. Your doctor usually will first implant a trial stimulator under the skin (percutaneously) to give the treatment a trial run. (A percutaneous stimulator tends to move from its original location, so it is considered temporary.) After a successful trial, your doctor can implant a more permanent stimulator. The stimulator itself is implanted under the skin of the belly (abdomen), and the small coated wires (leads) are inserted under the skin to the point where they are inserted into the spinal canal. This placement in the abdomen is a more stable, effective location. Most stimulator batteries must be replaced every 2 to 5 years.
After this outpatient procedure is complete, you and your doctor determine the best pulse strength. You are then given instructions for using the stimulator at home. A typical schedule for spinal cord stimulation is to use it for 1 or 2 hours, 3 or 4 times a day.
When in use, the spinal cord stimulator creates a tingling feeling, rather than the pain you have felt in the past.