Some of the most common types of injuries while on the job are those that cause back pain. Spondylolisthesis is one type of back injury that can result from a sudden injury or from overuse. This may lead the worker to file a workers’ compensation claim in order to obtain medical and disability benefits.
Overview of Spondylolisthesis
When a vertebra in the spinal column has a stress fracture (on one or both sides), this is known as spondylolysis. Generally this affects the fifth lumbar vertebra but can sometimes impact the fourth lumbar vertebra, too, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
This condition can then turn into spondylolisthesis, which is when the weakening of the bone from the stress fracture causes the vertebrae to shift or slip out of place. Spondylolisthesis can range from mild to severe. At its worst, the bones can press on nerves causing extreme pain.
Symptoms of Spondylolisthesis
There may not be any symptoms when this condition is mild. When they are present, they vary from one person to the next. A physician visit is always suggested if one supposes spondylolisthesis is present.
The following are some of the symptoms associated with spondylolisthesis:
- lower back pain;
- muscle spasms or stiffness;
- reduced range of motion in lower back;
- weakness in legs;
- tenderness in the area of affected vertebra; and
- tingling/numbness in buttocks/thighs.
Doctors may use an X-ray to view the stress fracture and the position of the vertebra to help determine if an individual has spondylolisthesis. A doctor can also tell how much the vertebra has shifted or slipped. However, to verify if the injury affects the nerves, an MRI or CT scan may be necessary.
The following grades indicate the percentage of the vertebra’s slippage:
- I – 1 to 25 percent;
- II – 26 to 50 percent;
- III – 51 to 75 percent; and
- IV – 76 to 100 percent.
Complications of Spondylolisthesis
Workers may suffer other complications with this condition. One is an increased inward curvature of the lumbar spine. This is called lordosis, which may make the buttocks appear more prominent.
Another complication is nerve compression such as cauda equina syndrome. Cauda equina syndrome refers to compression of nerves located at the end of the spinal cord. Along with pain, it can cause sensory and motor loss in the lower extremities. It may even result in a loss of control of bladder and bowel functions.
Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim for Spondylolisthesis
When sudden or repetitive trauma causes a lower back injury, it could lead to workers’ compensation benefits. However, it would need to be proven that the injury was work-related. Back injuries can sometimes be challenging to connect to one’s job, unless the employee’s daily tasks put obvious strain on the back.
Because of the difficulties that workers may experience, it can be advantageous to talk with an attorney who handles work injury cases. With proper preparation, it may help avoid delays or unwarranted denial of benefits.
An attorney knows the type of medical evidence necessary to show the extent of the injury. If there is a disagreement with the doctor’s diagnosis or treatment plan, an attorney can explain the employee’s rights and options that may be available. The worker may request an independent medical examination, for example.
The law firm of Walker, Billingsley & Bair focuses can help with workers’ compensation cases. We can help clients who are making an initial claim, or clients whose claim has already been denied or who are locked in a dispute with the employer and/or insurance company.