Degenerative disc and joint disease are often considered to be pre-existing conditions if you are injured at work. However, if you have an attorney willing to go to bat for you, then the condition can still be found to be compensable under the workers’ compensation laws in South Carolina. South Carolina law requires an injured worker to prove that they have aggravated a pre-existing condition to be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. One of the most common ways to aggravate a pre-existing condition is a work-related accident. Traumatic injuries and repetitive stress can cause severe damage to your joints and discs, leaving you in debilitating pain and unable to return to work. Unfortunately, claiming workers’ compensation benefits for degenerative disc and joint disease is not always as straightforward as it should be.
If you’re suffering from a degenerative disc or joint disease that was potentially aggravated by a work accident or repetitive trauma,, a workers’ compensation attorney can help. The South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers at the Joye Law Firm want to help injured workers get fair benefits for work-related illnesses, including degenerative disc and joint disease. Our firm has over 50 years of experience fighting on behalf of injured workers. Our results demonstrate the quality of our team. We do not charge our clients any fees unless we help them collect compensation, so you have nothing to lose by contacting our office today for a free initial consultation.
What Are Degenerative Joint Disease and Degenerative Disc Disease?
The bones in your spinal column are called vertebrae. There are small sacs of soft tissue between each vertebra. These sacs, known as discs, work as shock absorbers to allow your spine to twist and bend. Your joints have tissue, known as cartilage, that serves a similar purpose. Degenerative disc disease involves the slow degeneration of the disc, while degenerative disc disease involves the slow deterioration of the joints. These conditions can lead to pain, nerve root or spinal cord disturbances, or instability.
If a disc in your spine or the cartilage in your joints is damaged in some way, it becomes inflamed. This inflammation can cause pain and make it harder for you to move, bend, and twist. Your body also produces bone spurs as you lose the cushioning effect from damaged discs in your spine. These spurs can put painful pressure on your spinal cord and the adjacent nerve roots. Furthermore, ligaments and tendons in your joints will begin to stretch as cartilage deteriorates, which can be very painful. If the cartilage deteriorates badly enough, bones in your joints can end up grinding against each other, causing more pain and further limiting mobility. Sometimes you may not experience pain or discomfort from degenerative disc disease or joint disease until you have an accident or injury that aggravates the condition.
Some common symptoms of degenerative disc and bone disease include:
- Bach aches and soreness, especially when you move your body
- Joint pains and aches
- Pain and stiffness
- Stretches of inactivity
- Swelling or enlarged pieces of bone in the middle and end joints of fingers
- Joint swelling
If degenerative disc disease is left untreated, it can result in even more serious medical conditions, like arthritis, herniated disc, or spinal stenosis.
Can Degenerative Disc Disease Be Work-Related?
A sudden, traumatic injury can aggravate degenerative disc or joint disease. For example, if you slip on a wet surface at work and land hard on your back, you might begin to experience pain in your back which you were not experiencing prior to your fall at work. If the pain in your back is attributed to the aggravation of pre-existing degenerative disc disease by a medical professional, then you should be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
Does Workers’ Comp Cover Degenerative Disc Disease?
Workers’ compensation is supposed to cover any injury related to your job, regardless of who is at fault, that occurs while you are completing work-related duties.
In practice, however, it’s a challenge to claim workers’ comp benefits for pre-existing degenerative disc or joint disease. Employers and their workers’ comp insurers will frequently challenge the notion that the illness is work-related, especially if it’s a result of repetitive stress instead of a traumatic injury.
Without the proper medical evidence and other supporting documentation showing the aggravation of a pre-existing condition, injured workers may have a hard time getting their claim accepted. Getting help from an experienced workers’ compensation attorney may be necessary to build a viable claim for workers’ compensation for a degenerative medical condition.
Workplace Accidents that can Aggravate Degenerative Disc Disease
Some of the most common injuries that can exacerbate or aggravate degenerative disc or joint disease are:
- Overexertion — Long stretches of continuous pushing, pulling, carrying, throwing, or lifting heavy objects can put intense pressure on your back, as well as your joints. Over time, this pressure can build up and badly damage your discs and joints.
- Falls on the same level — Slipping or tripping on a wet surface and landing on the same level can damage your discs or joints, leading to or exacerbating an existing condition, such as degenerative disc or joint disease.
- Falls to a lower level — Falls to lower levels can cause catastrophic injuries. The impact of a severe fall can result in severe damage to discs in your back or joints.
- Injuries from falling tools or objects — Heavy objects or tools can severely damage your back and joints, depending on where and how the object strikes you. The initial trauma from a falling object may worsen the effects of an underlying degenerative illness.
- Heavy physical activity — Jobs involving a lot of physical activity can take a toll on workers’ bodies over time. Movements like kneeling, stooping, bending, reaching, climbing, standing, or lifting large objects put repetitive stress on joints and the discs in your back.
Types of Work that Can Aggravate Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc or joint disease can affect anyone, but some employees are more susceptible due to the nature of their jobs. While the most common workers’ compensation claim involves a single accident, work related injuries due to repetitive trauma are also covered in South Carolina if your job is considered repetitive in nature. These cases can be more challenging to prove and require the appropriate medical and expert evidence. Repetitive movements that can cause or aggravate degenerative joint or disc disease include:
- Kneeling — It can be quite painful to spend long periods on your knees at work. Kneeling puts pressure on your knees and back, potentially damaging the cartilage in your joints and leading to ruptured discs in your back.
- Lifting or carrying heavy objects — Putting too much strain on your back when lifting something can lead to a ruptured disc or similar injuries.
- Bending — Spending a lot of time bending for work can also put severe stress on the discs in your back.
- Climbing — The discs in your back help cushion your body and your spine from the impact of climbing, but the effects of each step can build up. Climbing down also puts pressure on your back because you’re essentially landing with the force of your whole body weight with each step.
How to Obtain Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Degenerative Disc Disease
Under South Carolina law, you must file a workers’ comp claim within two years of sustaining or discovering a work-related injury.
Once you’ve sustained an injury that you believe to be related to your repetitive job duties or a work-related accident, you should notify your employer as soon as possible.
After you report the injury, your employer has ten days to notify their workers’ compensation provider. The insurer will look at the information you provide and either approve or deny your claim. If you’re approved, you’ll start receiving benefits shortly. If your claim is denied, you can file an appeal to seek compensation for your injury. Getting help from a lawyer with the initial application or an appeal will give you peace of mind that a legal professional is capably handling your claim.
Talk to a South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today
Degenerative disc or joint disease can be a debilitating condition. Fortunately, workers’ compensation benefits could be available to help you get the treatment and financial support you need and deserve. Contact the Joye Law Firm today for a free initial consultation with a knowledgeable South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer. Complete our online contact form or call us at 888-324-3100. We can answer any questions you have about degenerative disc, joint disease, and workers’ compensation.