30 Nov, 2023

4 Types of Disc Herniation in Bloomington Workers’ Comp Claims

Author Todd A. Strong
Factory worker with painful back injury. 4 types of disc herniation.
Factory worker with painful back injury. 4 types of disc herniation.

What Is a Disc Herniation?

A herniated disk is a condition that affects the rubbery cushions located between the stack of bones that form the spine. These bones are called vertebrae.

Each spinal disk has a soft, jelly-like center, known as a nucleus. The nucleus is enclosed in a tough, rubbery exterior called the annulus. A herniated disk occurs when some of the nucleus pushes out through a tear in the annulus. This condition is also called a slipped or ruptured disk.

Although a herniated disk can occur in any part of the spine, it most commonly occurs in the lower back. Depending on the location of the herniated disk, it can cause pain, numbness, or weakness in an arm or leg.

Signs of a Disc Herniation

Herniated disks are mostly found in the lower back, but they can also occur in the neck. The symptoms experienced by an individual depend on the location of the disk and whether it is exerting pressure on a nerve.

If you experience sharp pain in a particular area of your leg, hip, or buttocks and simultaneously feel numbness in other parts of the same leg, you might have a slipped disc in the lower part of your spine. Pain on one side of the body can also be a symptom of a slipped disc. The pain from a slipped disc can worsen with standing or sitting, at night, while coughing, sneezing or laughing, bending backward, or walking short distances.

If you have a slipped disc in your neck, you may feel pain when moving your neck or deep pain near or over your shoulder blade. You might also experience pain that travels to the upper arm, forearm, and fingers, along with numbness along your shoulder, elbow, forearm, and fingers.

People with herniated disks typically experience radiating numbness or tingling in the body part served by the affected nerves. Muscles served by the affected nerves can weaken, leading to stumbling or difficulty lifting or holding things. In the case of a herniated disk in your neck, you may feel intense pain in your shoulder and arm, which may worsen when you cough, sneeze, or move into certain positions. This pain is often described as sharp or burning.

How a Disc Herniation Injury Can Impact Workers

The impact of a herniation on workers depends on its severity. In mild cases, rest, physical therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes can help manage symptoms and allow a worker to recover and return to his or her job.

In severe cases of herniation where the bulge is large enough to press on nerves, or is causing significant pain and disability, surgical intervention may be necessary. The worker may need to take time off work or switch to a less physically demanding job.

Jobs that require heavy lifting, bending, twisting, or repetitive motions can strain the back and increase the risk of aggravating a herniated disc. Examples of such jobs include construction workers, factory workers, nurses, landscapers, and mechanics.

On the other hand, jobs that involve sitting for prolonged periods, such as office jobs or occupations that involve driving, can also worsen the symptoms of herniated discs. Sitting for extended periods can put pressure on the lower back and exacerbate the condition.

When a worker has a herniated disc, the job he or she has may require modifications or accommodations in the work environment. For instance, he or she may need to reduce or change the type of duties performed, work part-time or remotely, use adaptive equipment, or request flexible working hours. The employer's policies and willingness to cooperate may be determining factors for the availability of these choices. If it becomes impossible or unsafe to continue working, the individual may need to consider changing careers or applying for disability benefits.

Types of Disc Herniation

Spinal discs can herniate in two ways — quickly due to some traumatic event such as one of the 5 most common causes of workplace accidents in Bloomington, or gradually over time. The latter is more common, leading to the four stages of spinal disc herniation.

Bulging Disc Herniation

A bulging disc occurs when the inner material of a spinal disc moves to one side, causing the disc to extend abnormally. This can sometimes irritate a nearby spinal nerve. The inner material, called the nucleus pulposus, slightly pushes against the outer shell. However, this is not always a cause for concern. Most people with a bulging disc do not experience serious issues, and the disc material may even shift back into its normal shape on its own.

Protruding Disc Herniation

At this stage, the disc material penetrates the annulus fibrosus, which is the outer shell of the spinal disc. Although the disc material is still within the outer shell, the bulge of the spinal disc becomes more noticeable, which often leads to increased discomfort. You may begin to experience nerve-related symptoms such as numbness and tingling sensations at this point.

Extruded Disc Herniation

As the inner disc material penetrates the outer shell, you may start experiencing severe discomfort, such as lower back pain that extends downwards if the affected disc is in the lumbar area — a common symptom of disc herniation. However, at this stage, you may often benefit from nonsurgical treatments, which may include:

  • Engaging in physical therapy sessions
  • Practicing exercises to correct posture
  • Taking medications such as steroid injections
  • Applying hot and cold therapy techniques
  •  Adjusting daily activities to ease discomfort

At this point, the associated symptoms can usually be managed or may even completely subside with the help of these treatments. However, it is still possible to experience flare-ups of pain with certain movements.

In some cases, surgery may eventually be recommended. Whether you need surgery depends on which nerve is affected and how the protruding disc material is causing irritation or compression. At this stage, surgery is only necessary about 10% of the time.

Sequestered Disc Herniation

Disc sequestration is a condition in which the inner material of a spinal disc comes out of its shell and completely separates from the disc. Sequestered disc herniation is a serious issue that often requires a surgical procedure known as a discectomy. If the detached material becomes lodged in the spinal canal, it can lead to equally critical problems, such as severe nerve irritation. At this point, you may experience such discomfort that you become bedridden.

The Role of Bloomington Workers’ Comp Attorney

To receive workers’ compensation benefits, you are required to complete a series of forms and comply with certain procedures. Mistakes or missed deadlines can result in a denied claim. By hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer, you can increase your chances of maximizing your benefits.

Evidence and Documentation in Workers’ Comp Claims

One of the most common reasons for a denied claim is the lack of sufficient medical evidence. An attorney will be familiar with workers' compensation investigations and what they look for. A lawyer can help you gather and develop medical evidence that accurately documents the severity of your injury. Legal representatives will often obtain medical records, recommend treatment with certain doctors, obtain medical opinions, and call on witnesses to testify to the physical requirements of your job. The services provided by a lawyer may significantly strengthen your case, and increase your chances of receiving fair compensation.

Settlement Options

Two types of settlement agreements exist for workers’ compensation claims in Illinois: stipulation and award, and compromise and release.

Stipulation and Award

In some cases, workers' compensation claims can be resolved through a stipulation and award settlement, which establishes an ongoing relationship between the injured worker and the insurance company. The company agrees to cover the costs of ongoing medical treatment and disability benefits for a specific period of time. Disability payments are set at a predetermined amount and paid regularly. However, if the injury worsens, the payments can be adjusted accordingly.

Compromise and Release

The majority of workers' compensation settlements in cases involving the 4 types of disc herniation, and other injuries, take the form of compromise and release. A compromise and release settlement is also sometimes called a lump sum payment. In such settlements, the insurance company agrees to pay a predetermined amount of money to you, and in return, you agree to drop the case. Once the lump sum is paid, the workers' comp claim is considered resolved. However, if the settlement amount is found to be insufficient, there are limited options for reopening the case.

About The Author

Photo of Todd A. Strong
Illinois workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer Todd A. Strong is the founder of Strong Law Offices in Peoria, Illinois. Todd brings considerable legal knowledge, experience, and skill to the table to ensure injured victims throughout the state are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.