Wear and tear on our bodies and aging can cause degenerative disc disease and joint disorders. Yet, many workers suffer these conditions at a younger age. This may be due to accidents or repeated stress and strain caused by their job tasks. These disorders can leave them disabled and unable to work for a living.
If you have been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease or a degenerative joint disorder related to your work, call the North Carolina personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at Hardison & Cochran. We know the common arguments that defendants and their attorneys use to avoid paying you the money you are entitled to for a work-related disability. We are equipped to collect the evidence you need to prove your case.
Call us today at (800) 434-8399 or complete our online form for a free case review. We serve clients throughout North Carolina, including in Raleigh, Cary, Durham and Fayetteville.
What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative disc disease occurs when the soft, compressible discs that separate the vertebrae in your back change. Because of this change, the discs offer less cushioning and support for movement. As disc degeneration progresses, nerves become compressed. This can cause pain, instability, disturbances with the nerve roots or spinal cord or a combination of these symptoms.
Degenerative disc disease can take place throughout the spine. However, it most often occurs in the discs in the lower back (lumbar region) and neck (cervical region), according to WebMD.
The changes in the discs can result in back or neck pain, and/or:
- Osteoarthritis – A breakdown of the tissue (cartilage) that protects and cushions joints
- Herniated disc – An abnormal bulge or breaking open of a spinal disc
- Spinal stenosis – A narrowing of the spinal canal (the open space in the spine that holds the spinal cord).
Degenerative disc disease is often part of the natural aging process. But WebMd says these changes are more likely to occur in people who do heavy physical work such as repeated heavy lifting. A sudden injury that causes a herniated disc (such as a fall) may also begin the degeneration process. The pain associated with degenerative disc disease often gets worse with movements such as bending over, reaching up or twisting.
If the disc(s) responsible for the chronic pain can be located, surgery can be performed. When this is done, the damaged disc(s) can be removed with or without fusing the two adjacent vertebrae, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). Bone grafts (harvesting bone from other sites of the body) are usually used to stimulate fusion of the vertebrae.
What is Degenerative Joint Disease?
Joints can break down when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down. Pain and stiffness result. Over time, joints are likely to become stiffer and harder. The pain may become chronic. This condition is properly known as “osteoarthritis.” It is commonly called “arthritis.”
Arthritis is the most common joint disorder, the NLM says. It is caused by aging and wear and tear on a joint. The Mayo Clinic says osteoarthritis can damage any joint in your body. However, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, neck, lower back, knees and hips.
Arthritis is mainly a disease of aging. It tends to be genetic, meaning it runs in the family. Being overweight causes the kind of constant strain on joints that can lead to arthritis. A fracture or other injuries to the cartilage and ligaments in a joint can also lead to arthritis later in life.
Certain occupations also contribute to arthritis. If your job includes tasks that place repetitive stress on a particular joint, then your job may predispose you to developing arthritis, the Mayo Clinic says. Jobs that involve kneeling or squatting for more than an hour a day, such as plumbing or HVAC repair work, can put you at the highest risk. Jobs that involve lifting, climbing stairs or walking can also heighten the risk of arthritis.
The condition gradually worsens with time. No cure exists. Arthritis is most often treated with pain medication and exercise or more concerted physical therapy. Severe cases may be treated with surgery. An osteotomy, for instance, can realign bones and reduce knee pain. In another type of surgery, such as hip or knee replacement, doctors replace the damaged joint. As the Mayo Clinic points out, artificial joints can wear out or come loose and may eventually need to be replaced when younger victims are involved.
Workplace Injury and Degenerative Disc / Joint Disease
According to Liberty Mutual Insurance Company’s Workplace Safety Index, the top five causes of disabling workplace injuries each year are:
- Overexertion (excessive lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing)
- Falls on the same level
- Falls to a lower level
- Bodily reaction to bending, climbing, reaching, standing, sitting, slipping or tripping without falling
- Being struck by an object (such as a tool or materials falling on a worker from above).
As you can see from above, several of the workplace conditions and job duties that most frequently cause injury are the same types of repeated stress, strain, injury from accident and other job-related wear and tear that lead to degenerative disc disease and joint disorders.
The Challenges of a North Carolina Degenerative Disc / Joint Disease Claim
Degenerative disc or joint diseases are naturally occurring disorders. This can be an obstacle when filing a personal or workers’ compensation claim involving these conditions. The lawyer for the insurance company that opposes a degenerative disc / joint disease claim will surely claim there is no cause or fault to assign to the injured worker’s employer.
However, these conditions can be caused or hastened by sudden trauma in an accident or by repeated stress and strain. An experienced North Carolina workplace injury lawyer who understands the state’s workers’ compensation system will know how to document and demonstrate the causal connection between your job-related stress, strain and/or accident and your degenerative disc / joint disease. For instance, work records, accident reports and medical records can all be compiled and presented to help prove your claim.
Our Raleigh Degenerative Disc / Joint Disease Lawyers Are Ready To Help
Hardison & Cochran handles many personal injury and workers’ compensation cases in North Carolina in which the injured person has degenerative disc / joint disease or disorder. If you or a loved one needs a lawyer to handle your workers’ compensation claim, make sure your attorney has experience representing clients who suffer from degenerative disc / joint disease. Contact Hardison & Cochran today online or call us at (800) 434-8399 to schedule a free review of your case. We’ll respond within 24 hours.