Last Updated: 2/16/2023

Back injuries are a fairly common work injury for which employees seek workers’ compensation. An example is a lumbar strain, which is a low back strain that can occur from a single event (such as an employee in a Des Moines warehouse who falls off a ladder) or from constant stress placed on the back by a specific job task (such as heaving lifting or bending).

When could a lumbar strain lead to worker’s compensation?

It’s important to understand that any back injury must be work-related in order to qualify for worker’s comp. However, even if there is a pre-existing back injury, the worker may still be eligible for benefits if work worsened or aggravated the condition.

Under these circumstances, it may be necessary to produce evidence of the previous injury and show that it hadn’t been a problem for a period of time or provide evidence that performing work duties or an incident at work worsened it.

A single accident at work can sometimes be easier to prove that a resultant lumbar strain in terms of qualifying for workers’ compensation. For instance, the employee falls from an elevated surface onto his/her back, straining muscles in the lower back.

Some work tasks put a strain on the lower back, which can get progressively worse over time. Although it may qualify for workers’ comp, it’s possible the employer will try to argue it has nothing to do with the job.

One way to avoid problems with obtaining benefits is to immediately report the incident to the employer. For workers who are injured spontaneously, this will likely happen in the course of securing an ambulance to take you to the hospital. However, if you are at the culmination of an injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome that worsens over time – and simply can work no longer, then you may want to visit your personal physician.

In this case, you can probably schedule the appointment at a time convenient for you and can also alert your employer about the repetitive stress situation that has come to a head recently. Workers who experience difficulties getting benefits may get success from seeking legal advice.

What does workers’ compensation cover when an employee sustains a lumbar strain?

A lumbar strain can require medical exams for diagnosis as well as treatment to help the worker recover and return to work.

Treatment could include:

  • prescription medication;
  • spinal injections to relieve pain;
  • electrical muscle stimulation;
  • massage;
  • pelvic traction; and
  • exercises with a physical therapist.

The employer must cover all reasonable and necessary medical expenses related to the back injury.

While most lower back strains heal and the worker is able to return to work, many miss time during their recovery period. Disability benefits may be available when the injury prevents the employee from working. Temporary total disability benefits are available for workers who are unable to work after the injury. These pay 80 percent of the workers’ weekly spendable earnings prior to the accident.

If the employee is able to return to work performing light duty tasks or alternate work, he/she may be eligible for temporary partial disability benefits that pay two-thirds of the difference between previous wages prior to the accident and current wages in the light duty or other alternative position.

If the worker can return to full-time work but must leave to receive medical treatment, he/she may be able to recover benefits for lost wages. Transportation costs to get to medical appointments could also be included. Reimbursement for mileage would only be for trips to a doctor or other medical care related to the work injury.

Things an Injured Worker Should Know Before Filing for Workers’ Comp

Don’t jump the gun on filing a workers’ comp claim, first be sure these three issues are addressed:

  • show proof;
  • get medical records; and
  • know the statute of limitations.

First, you need to show proof. It can be difficult to prove that back injuries were caused by a work-related task. But this is necessary in order to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

If it is the result of an accident, it might be easier to prove. But the lower back pain that develops over time could be more challenging. If it can be shown the type of work was likely a contributing factor, such as someone who loads boxes onto a truck, it will make things easier.

Second, obtain your medical records. It’s important to have medical records that show you suffered a lumbar strain injury:

  • doctor’s notes from a physical examination;
  • results from imaging tests (MRI, CT scan);
  • hospital discharge papers; and
  • other types of documentation.

It should also include the treatment plan or special instructions, such as not returning to work.

Finally, learn about the statute of limitations for work-related injuries. Although it isn’t necessary to file a claim the same day you learned of your injury, by that same token, you shouldn’t wait too long.

When there are questions or concerns about how a claim is being handled and the compensation made available by the workers’ comp insurer, talk to an attorney familiar with workers’ compensation cases. Walker, Billingsley & Bair helps Iowa workers who are seriously injured at work or who have trouble recovering fair compensation, so call today: (888) 435-9886. Also be sure to check out our free eBook7 Deadly Mistakes to Avoid If You Are Hurt at Work and How to Avoid Them.

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