Common Workplace Back Injuries and Accommodations

From constant pain to a dull ache or shooting pains that travel down your legs, back injuries may require surgery and long recovery times. Work-related back injuries account for almost one half of all musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While there are many causes of back pain, some of the most common result from years of repetitive tasks, straining while lifting, awkward posture and weakening back and stomach muscles. Repeated small injuries reduce flexibility and cause muscle aches and back spasms. A back injury may also involve damage to the discs, nerves and ligaments.

Muscles, Discs and Ligaments

Strenuous movements often lead to back pain. Straining the back muscles is even more likely when muscles are tired after a long day of repetitive motions or when muscles lack adequate strength.

For seasonal workers who may not be used to lifting heavy objects, back injuries can occur if they overdo and fail to follow proper lifting guidelines. Even an experienced delivery driver can easily strain his or her back when maneuvering heavy pieces up narrow staircases or into tight spots.

Some muscle strains heal quickly and may not require time away from work; however, in other cases what seems to be a muscle strain may be more serious.

Back pain can be also caused by an injured disc, which can happen if the spine becomes strained or compressed. A damaged disc can put pressure on the nerves and lead to pain and weakness in the back and legs.

Sudden and strenuous movements can injure the ligaments that help hold vertebrae in place. In turn, the damaged ligaments cause irritation to the facet joints and sometimes muscle spasms.

Noninvasive treatments, such as drug therapy, chiropractic care, physical therapy and rest are generally sufficient to treat back injuries. But there are instances when damaged spinal discs necessitate surgery.

Depending on the severity of the back injury, workers' compensation benefits may be available while you recuperate. Oftentimes, these claims can be complicated, because an insurer may argue that activities outside the workplace contributed to the injury. The assistance of a workers' comp attorney is one way to ensure you receive fair compensation.

Possible Accommodations

Following some back injuries, even after surgery and recovery it may be impossible to do your job in the same way. Employers often provide accommodations to get employees back to work.

Examples of accommodations are a sit/stand workstation for an employee who has sitting or standing restrictions or an adjustable lifting device for an employee who has lifting restrictions.

After a workplace accident, it is important to notify your employer. When an injury keeps you from getting back to work, a workers' compensation attorney can advise you of your rights and help you through the claims process.