Neck injuries happen at work for many reasons including a traumatic fall, overuse because the job requires you to look up or down most of the day, turning motions that can cause traumatic or cumulative injuries, getting struck from behind, etc. The most common types of injuries involve cervical strains (muscle and ligament damage), herniated discs, bulging discs, fractured vertebrates, and sometimes even paralysis.
What type of treatment is required for a cervical strain?
A cervical strain basically means that the muscles and/or ligaments in your neck have been stretched too far and damaged. Most commonly you will be prescribed physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications. The majority of cervical strains will get better with time and often you will be able to return to normal activities within a few months. However, some cervical strain conditions become chronic which is defined as lasting 6 months or more. Often these are associated with muscle spasms, significant pain, loss of range of motion, and work restrictions. There are pain management doctors who can try to treat this with trigger point injections, physical therapy, radiofrequency denervation (destroying portions of the nerves causing pain), and other pain management procedures.
What type of treatment is required for herniated or bulging discs?
Sometimes treatment similar to a cervical strain is initially prescribed like physical therapy and medications, but it depends upon the severity of your symptoms. If you have a disc injury that is causing pain, loss of use, numbness, or otherwise affecting one or both of your hands and arms, then your condition may be very serious. Without timely surgical treatment, you could be left with permanent spinal cord damage. So if you are having what is called radicular symptoms (pain radiating into an extremity from the spine) you need to immediately seek medical care. An MRI is used to determine the extent of the damage of your disc and if it is pushing against your spinal cord causing additional symptoms. If your symptoms are not severe then it is likely your doctors will recommend an ESI (epidural steroid injection). An ESI is when a doctor injects medications into the area where your bulging or herniated disc is located. The medication is designed to reduce the inflammation in the area in order to relieve your symptoms. Keep in mind that an ESI can cause your blood sugar to increase and they can cause other side effects.
If your symptoms are more serious or if you have one or more ESI's that do not help, then your doctor may recommend surgery. The most common type of neck surgery is a cervical fusion where the doctor puts in a cage to stabilize the area where your disc is herniated to relieve pressure on the nerves coming out from the spinal cord. They may also take a bone from your hip or use a cadaver bone to help stabilize the area. The doctor will also remove parts of your herniated or bulging discs to prevent further problems. A cervical fusion is a big surgery that takes months to heal from, but sometimes it is your only option to relieve the pain and prevent getting even worse.
What type of treatment is required for a fractured vertebrate?
This once again depends upon your symptoms and the severity of the injury. If you have sustained a burst fracture in your neck, then you may be dealing with some spinal cord damage leading to partial or total paralysis. Some people sustain only small fractures in their cervical vertebrates which can be treated with a hard brace or sometimes a cervical fusion surgery much like discussed above.
If you would like more information about work-related neck injuries, the compensation you should receive, and the Iowa Injured Workers Bill of Rights request a copy of our latest Iowa Workers' Compensation. (*Click Here*). We offer our book at no cost or risk to you because we have seen too many hard-working Iowans taken advantage of by insurance adjusters trying to maximize insurance company profits.
Note: In no way is this article intended to be medical advice or opinions. You should consult with your medical professionals for medical care and treatment. The above represents what we have seen after having represented more than a 1,000 injured workers in Iowa over the past 22 plus years.