Workers’ Comp for Neck Injury: Do You Have a Claim?
Have you suffered a workplace accident resulting in a neck injury? You might be wondering about workers’ compensation for neck injury.
Workers’ comp claims for neck injuries can be complicated.
If you have injured your neck on the job, you may be confused by some of the terminology used by your doctors, nurses, and the adjuster. You might receive a form that says you suffered a “neck sprain” or “cervical strain”. Or you might receive a report from a radiologist that says your MRI, x-rays or CT scan showed “osteoarthritis” or “cervical myelopathy”. What exactly do these terms mean?
In this article, we’ll examine some of the common questions about workers’ comp for neck injury, and what you can do if you need workers’ compensation for a neck injury suffered on the job.
Neck Sprains and Cervical Strains
A neck sprain or a cervical strain are simply common terms, often used interchangeably, by doctors and nurses to refer to an injury to your neck that does not involve a fracture or a broken bone. People often describe a neck injury as a “broken neck” but it is really quite rare that people actually suffer a fracture to a bone in their neck. Most injuries involve strains or sprains. These are the most common neck injuries involved in workers’ comp for neck injury claims.
A neck “strain” is typically where the fibers in your neck muscle stretch too far or even tear. A strain can also mean an injury to the tendons that connect the muscle to the bone. Doctors will sometimes use “grades” to describe how severe the tearing is. While some people assume a strain to be a minor injury that will heal on its own, most doctors do not believe this to be the case.
Think about what happens when you cut your hand. A cut to your hand will “heal up” when your body causes the blood to coagulate into a scab. That scab is painful and has poor range of motion. It is prone to reinjury and is not as strong as healthy tissue. If you want a cut to your hand to heal quickly and thoroughly, you actually want to wear a bandage, apply Neosporin, and massage the injury so it heals over with healthy tissue.
Similarly, if you roll your ankle, you might go to the doctor and get x-rays and be relieved to find you have no “fracture”, or “broken bones.” But then weeks, or even months later, you realize your ankle still hurts. Ankle sprains can take a long time to heal and might never heal completely without proper treatment and rehab.
Neck sprains are no different.
Good doctors will treat neck sprains as the serious injuries they can be. Proper treatment might include:
- Rehab (either physical therapy or chiropractic care)
- Medications (pain relievers, muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories, and/or steroids)
- Physical restrictions (keeping you out of work so your injury can heal)
Physical therapy or chiropractic care are designed to properly align your neck and strengthen your muscles. Medication management is designed to alleviate pain but should not just mask the pain. Proper medication regimens will help reduce the swelling and alleviate muscle spasms so you can properly heal. And restrictions are designed to assure you do not reinjure yourself and lengthen your recovery time.
If you’re seeking workers’ compensation for your neck injury, there are some things to keep in mind as you navigate the system. Remember, workers’ comp claims for neck injuries can be complicated. If you’ve suffered a neck injury while on the job, talk with an experienced work injury lawyer today.
Our North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers will review your claim and advise you on pursuing workers’ comp benefits for your neck injury.
Strains vs. Sprains
While the terms “strain” and “sprain” are often used interchangeably, they are actually different injuries. A “sprain” is not an injury to the muscle itself, but an injury to a ligament. A ligament is similar to a tendon, but where a tendon connects a muscle to bone, a ligament connects two bones together. The reason the terms sprains and strains are often used interchangeably is because:
- it is pretty common that when a person suffers a sprain, they also suffer a strain
- doctors often cannot tell if you have suffered a sprain, a strain, or both
X-rays show bones, and doctors can look at the alignment of your bones and infer if something is out of whack. But x-rays do not show the ligaments or tendons. Only an MRI can see the ligaments and tendons and allow a doctor to clearly visually determine if you have a sprain or a strain. And MRIs are expensive, so doctors usually try to avoid ordering one if possible.
Another thing that does not show up on x-rays is the discs in your neck. Put simply, your neck is made up of bones, and soft spongey disc material between the bones, which cushion them. X-rays can show the bones of your neck, and again, your doctor can probably look at an x-ray and get a pretty good idea if there is a problem with the discs in between. But an x-ray does not allow your doctor to actually visually inspect the discs. An MRI is needed for that.
If you’re seeking workers’ compensation for neck injury (including a sprain or strain), be sure to seek medical care from a qualified medical provider experienced with neck injuries.
The workers’ compensation insurance company is going to demand proof that your neck injury prevents you from working, and only a thorough examination and treatment plan will provide that.
An experienced workers’ comp lawyer can help walk you through the entire process start to finish.
Osteoarthritis, Osteophytes, and Bone Spurs
X-rays can reveal osteoarthritis, osteophytes, or bone spurs. Basically, these are terms that refer to the condition where your bones grow in ways that cause problems. If you took 100 people and looked at their spines under an MRI or CT scan, almost every one of them would show some bone spurs or similar findings. But most of these people would tell you they have no neck pain.
Bone spurs and arthritis are very common and are usually not caused by an injury, but by the normal wear and tear we put our bodies under every day. And they are often asymptomatic, meaning they do not cause you any pain that you notice on a day-to-day basis.
However, when you suffer an injury to your neck, it can be like the straw that broke the camel’s back. A neck strain or sprain can cause inflammation or swelling and activate your body so that you now have pain in your neck. The workplace injury did not cause the bone spurs, but it did cause the bone spurs to become a problem.
Surgery for Neck Injuries
At its most serious, a neck injury can require surgery. There are two common surgeries that doctors will perform on a serious neck injury.
The first surgery is called a laminectomy. With this surgery, a surgeon removes disc, bone spurs, and maybe even part of the vertebral bone to allow more room for the spinal cord. This can alleviate pressure on the spinal column (some call this a “pinched nerve”).
The second common surgery is called a fusion. In a fusion, a surgeon will implant metal hardware to stabilize the neck. Think of a small metal rod attached to your neck to keep it from bending in a way that puts stress on your neck.
Often, surgeons will actually perform both surgeries in one, a surgery sometimes referred to as ACDF (anterior cervical discectomy and fusion).
Workers’ Comp for Neck Injury: Do You Have a Claim?
Of course, this is a simplified explanation.
The truth is that neck injuries can be far more complex than can comfortably laid out in a few paragraphs.
If you have suffered a serious neck injury on the job, it is important to seek medical care from a trained medical professional, and to talk to an experienced work injury attorney knowledgeable about neck injuries and how they can affect your life and ability to earn a living.
For a FREE consultation with an experienced NC work injury lawyer at Riddle & Brantley, please call 1-800-525-7111.
We don’t get paid unless you do. If you don’t get workers’ comp for neck injury benefits, you won’t pay any attorney fees. It’s as simple as that.
Please call 1-800-525-7111 today and let’s review your claim.
Our team is led by two Board-Certified Specialists in Workers’ Compensation. Attorney Chris Brantley has been recognized by Million Dollar Advocates Forum for his experience and results handling these cases, and attorney Adam Smith is a member of Super Lawyers and maintains a top-tier AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell (see disclaimer below).
We handle cases across North Carolina, including in
Free consultations are available by phone, email, text and video conference, and no in-person meeting is required.
“I would recommend Riddle & Brantley to anyone who needs help with workers’ comp.”
-B. Fields, Riddle & Brantley client
We will be glad to review your neck injury workers’ compensation claim and advise you on your best available legal options for pursuing benefits.
Justice Counts for North Carolinians injured on the job and we would love to help however we can.
*** Disclaimer: An attorney must meet certain requirements to join these organizations or receive these awards. For more information on Membership Criteria for Million Dollar Advocates Forum, Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, Super Lawyers, The National Trial Lawyers Top 100, The National Association of Distinguished Counsel, AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell, and the Litigator Award, please visit our Membership Criteria page. These awards and memberships should not be construed as a promise or guarantee of a similar result. Each case is different and must be evaluated separately.