Work-related injuries include repetitive stress injuries that occur as a result of stress and strain over a period of time.
A repetitive stress injury that affects workers is degenerative disc disease. While the discs can wear out as a natural part of aging, they can also result from stress and strain on the spine. Over time, the affected disc collapses, causing the vertebra above to sink toward the vertebra below. The resulting loss of height affects surrounding structures as well, particularly the facet joints. Workers may require artificial disc replacement to overcome the problem.
Degenerative Disc Disease
When the vertebra collapses, it is no longer able to support the spine. The facet joints begin to support the force transmitted between vertebras, which causes wear and tear of the articular cartilage that covers the joint surface. The articular cartilage is the slippery, smooth surface that covers the surface of the bone; however, it cannot withstand abnormal pressure for a long time.
Due to shrinking of disc height, the size of the neural foramina also reduces. Neural foramina is the opening between each pair of vertebral discs, where the nerve roots leave the spinal column. This can cause the nerve roots to becoming squeezed. In such cases, the damaged disc has to be replaced with an artificial disc also known as prosthesis in order to reduce the distance between vertebra. The prosthesis is placed between the vertebra to jack up the upper vertebra. This enlarges the disc space and relieves pressure on the facet joints. Placing an artificial disc opens up the space around the nerve roots, where they pass through neural foramina. The prosthesis or the artificial implant mimics a healthy disc and restores natural motion. It also helps maintain stability of the spinal joints above and below the implant.
Artificial Disc Replacement
The standard of care for pain from a degenerated disc is spinal graft surgery in which the bone graft donated by a bone bank or taken from the pelvic bone is used to fuse the two vertebra together. While it stabilizes the spine, motion may be lost at that level and the increased strain on the next vertebra can pose problems at a later stage. Doctors now recommend artificial disc replacement, because it reduces or eliminates the chronic pain and allows motion. It also prevents premature breakdown of the adjacent discs.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
If you have developed degenerative disc disease as a result of the work you do, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. If your condition requires an artificial disc implant surgery, it may not be easy to get the insurance company to pay for it. The insurer may contend that your injury is a result of age-related wear and tear. Talk to a St. Louis injured worker lawyer to discuss your case. Contact The Law Office of James M. Hoffmann at (314) 361-4300 for a free consultation.