Last Updated: 11/2/2023

bulging herniated disk illustrationThere are many activities that can contribute to a herniated disc. Repetitive motions can cause stress on your low back or neck which may lead to a herniated disc. Other causes can include heavy strain, increased pressure to the lower back or neck, or even a twisting movement. All of these motions are common in a lot of different work environments. If you do any of these activities at your job on a daily basis you may be at risk for this type of injury.

What is a herniated disc? The bones in your back are padded by small spongy discs. These discs are like shock absorbers for your spine and keep you flexible. If one of them becomes injured, it may swell or break open; this is called a herniated disc.

There are many symptoms caused by a herniated disc. Any of the following symptoms may be indicative of this condition:

• Severe low back pain or neck pain
• Numbness
• Muscle weakness
• Pain and/or numbness down the leg or arm
• Pain and/or numbness in the buttock

You should go to your doctor if you think you might have a herniated disc. Most likely your doctor will examine you and ask about your symptoms. If necessary, he or she may request that you have an MRI or CT scan of the spine to verify that you have a herniated disc.

What Causes a Herniated Disc and How Will I Know if I Have One?

Workers who are at risk for a herniated disc are those with physically demanding jobs. Repetitive lifting, pulling, twisting and pushing are all factors that could contribute to a herniated disc. As the disc puts pressure on nerve roots, any of the following symptoms may become evident:

Pain typically in one leg or arm: If the herniated disc is in your lower back, you will feel pain in your buttocks, leg, and thigh. This is called sciatica and it is one of the most common tell-tale symptoms of a herniated disc. The pain might even extend to part of your foot. If the herniated disc is in your neck, you will feel pain in your shoulder and arm. Coughing or sneezing may cause the pain to radiate down your arm or leg.

Tingling or numbness: You might experience these symptoms in the body part that is most closely intertwined with a damaged nerve.

Weakness: Muscles that are intertwined with the affected nerves may weaken, causing you to trip and fall or preventing you from lifting or holding items. 

If your herniated disc is not pressing on a nerve root, you might not have any pain or you might experience a backache.  Since a herniated disc can be very painful with symptoms that last weeks or months, you should seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

Conservative Treatments for Bulging Discs

When you’ve suffered a bulging disc injury and are in pain, relief is all you can think about. The good news is that most disc injuries respond well to conservative, non-invasive treatments.

After diagnosis, your doctor may recommend bulging disc treatments such as:

  • prescription medications (anti-inflammatories, steroids, pain medications, and muscle relaxants);
  • manual traction;
  • physical therapy;
  • reduced activity (not performing any strenuous activity or large movements in order to give the body time to heal); and
  • spinal injections to treat pain.

Resorting to Surgery for Severe Cases

When conservative methods fail, doctors may recommend surgery. Some of the types of surgeries used for bulging discs include:

  • discectomies;
  • microdiscectomies;
  • laminotomies;
  • laminectomiesand
  • fusions.

While these options may bring benefit for some patients, they are not always effective and may require additional surgeries. Plus, they are quite costly. A discectomy can cost over $13,000 and a spinal fusion can cost $46,000, according to Healthcare Blue Book. Admittance to a hospital for inpatient treatment for a spinal problem can run over $7,000.

If you or a loved one have been injured at work our team at Walker, Billingsley & Bair is here to help answer any of your questions or concerns regarding any injuries you may have sustained and what workers' compensation benefits you may be eligible for.

Rehabilitation Can Speed Healing

Taking an active part in your rehabilitation can speed your healing, reduce the chances of a repeat injury or ongoing pain, and help you get back to life faster.

According to South Shore Hospital Orthopedic in Hingham Massachusetts, there are four progressive stages of rehab after a herniated disc injury, each with appropriate exercises and guidelines.

  • Phase 1: This is the acute phase, where the focus is on pain control and reducing muscle spasms. Doctors may recommend gentle stretching and avoiding activities that worsen the pain.
  • Phase 2: In Phase 2, the sub-acute phase, patients begin walking a little more, beginning basic strengthening exercises, spinal stretches, and range of motion exercises. Some bending may be allowed.
  • Phase 3: The third phase is called the rehabilitation period. Doctors may initiate functional exercises, recommend cardio, additional stretching and flexibility movements, and allow patients to perform some bending, lifting, and reaching activities.
  • Phase 4: The final step is sports-specific. It’s during this stage that your doctor or personal trainer will begin helping you regain functions so that you can return to your particular sport.

You can also ask your rehabilitation specialist for a list of things you can do at home to promote healing and reduce pain. For example, you can apply heat and cold packs to the affected area, take over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, wear a supportive brace, and get enough sleep on a comfortable mattress.

What Workers’ Compensation May Pay 

A properly filed workers’ comp claim may pay for: 

  • Medical expenses.
  • Mileage and gas to approved workers’ compensation physicians.
  • Lost wages. 

What You Need to Do to Get Workers’ Compensation Coverage 

If you suspect you may have a torn disc injury, the first step you need to take is to notify your employer. There are strict time limits regarding when the accident happened and when it must be reported to an employer. If you wait too long to complete an accident report, your workers’ comp claim may be denied. 

The next step is to see a doctor right away. This is important for your health as well as your workers’ comp claim. Documentation of the injury and its prognosis will be pertinent to your case. 

Workers need to understand a seemingly minor injury can develop into a much more serious condition. Torn discs can become worse in time and cause serious back or neck issues and lifelong pain. This is why you should treat any injury at work as if it might have a serious outcome. 

You can help your diagnosis and workers’ comp claim by writing down how the injury happened and your symptoms. Keep a notebook with any physical issues you notice and date each entry. This step is a great way to chronicle the injury and help you remember the details, which can be crucial in a workers’ comp claim.

Learn more about how to deal with your work injury:

To receive a FREE book entitled "Iowa Workers' Compensation - An Insider's Guide to Work Injuries" which describes Iowa work injuries, including the "7 Mistakes To Avoid If You Are Hurt At Work" Call Now 641-792-3595 or log on to www.IowaWorkInjury.comWhy offer a Book at No Cost?  Iowa workers' compensation attorney Corey J. L. Walker practices primarily in workers' compensation law and has represented hundreds of Iowans hurt at work and has seen too many clients from Des Moines, Newton, Cedar Rapids and throughout the state of Iowa make mistakes before they had the “right” information about work injuries, resulting in them losing thousands of dollars.  Iowans hurt at work are beginning to realize that the insurance company is not there to help them and that they should have someone on their side.  For immediate assistance, contact us online or call 641-792-3595 and ask for Corey. 


Corey Walker
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With over 28 years legal experience, Corey has been recognized for his work as an injury attorney.