Days missed from work due to injuries cost U.S. employers billions of dollars each year. One of the most common areas of the body affected by such injuries is the spine. Whether it’s slipping on a slick surface or experiencing a severe strain from heavy lifting and repetitive movements, there are many ways the backbone and its supporting discs, joints, nerves, and muscles can be affected while on the job. Even if you’re hesitant to miss more days of work than you have to, take a moment to consider why you need to get diagnosed as soon as possible after experiencing a back injury at work.
One of the most important reasons to get a proper diagnosis is so you’ll have documentation of your work-related injury. This information can make it easier to prove to your employer that you have a valid injury and that it occurred while you were on the clock. Make sure to report the injury to your employer ASAP so he or she will have documentation as well.
If you decide to file a workers’ compensation claim, a doctor’s report may expedite the process and keep your employer from challenging the nature of your back injury. Documentation from your doctor could also help an attorney appeal your claim if it’s denied. A report detailing your condition typically includes: • Your account of how it happened • An assessment of the extent of the injury • What types of job limitations you may have because of your injury • The kind of care and treatment you’ll likely need • A temporary or permanent disability rating for serious injuries
Some employers are reluctant to assign injured workers lighter duties, especially if they’re concerned other employees may view it as favoritism. However, a doctor or spine specialist can perform range of motion testing, muscle strength tests, and other assessments of your abilities to determine if it’s best for you to avoid certain strenuous duties. This determination is usually made based on a discussion of what tasks are performed on a regular or semiregular basis.
Lastly, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis so you’ll be able to get back to work sooner. Getting diagnosed is also a good thing for your employer, since an accurate diagnosis can allow you to be more specific about your limitations. For instance, you may be told not to lift anything heavier than 25 pounds for a few weeks if you have a severe muscle strain within your lower back area that needs time to heal. Receiving a proper diagnosis also means treatment that often includes physical therapy, and medication can start sooner. More serious injuries may require a treatment that involves spinal decompression such as a foraminotomy. Santa Monica residents should make sure to see a doctor as soon as possible. Typically, the postinjury diagnostic process involves: • Image tests • A pain scale assessment of your discomfort (e.g., “On a scale of 1–10, how would you rate your level of pain?”) • A comprehensive physical examination • A review of your history of back-related injuries to determine if you may have aggravated an old injury As far as finding a provider to give you a proper diagnosis after sustaining a workplace injury, a good starting point is your own regular doctor. The doctor should be able to conduct an exam and make a general determination of the type of injuries you have. If confirmation of a suspected problem is needed, you’ll likely be referred to a spine specialist for a more comprehensive assessment. If your employer attempts to steer you toward a certain provider who may be favorable to him or her, remember you have the right to see any qualified doctor or specialist. If you’ve injured your back at work, it’s crucial to see a doctor for diagnosis as soon as possible. It could save you a lot of pain and stress in the long run. The back injury experts at The Spine Institute are experienced in diagnosis and treatment of spinal injuries and spinal health. If you need the advice of a professional spine surgeon, Santa Monica residents should call our friendly staff at 310-828-7757 and schedule a consultation today.