Workers’ Compensation for Herniated Discs and Other Back Injuries

Information on this page is not intended as a substitute for a medical evaluation by a qualified provider.

When the everyday motions and stresses of your job turn into major aches and pains, you can develop a serious health problem. Heavy lifting, forceful movements, bending and twisting, whole body vibration, and static work postures can compound the risks of back pain and injury to workers. One of the most common workers’ compensation back injuries is a herniated disc.

If you have a herniated disc or other back injury that you believe was caused by your job, it’s time to talk to an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. Employers purchase workers’ comp insurance to protect their businesses and workers, and a lawyer can help you understand what benefits may be available to you.

What Exactly Is a Herniated Disc?

A herniated disc is a rupture in the section of the spine (disc) that cushions each bone (vertebra). Between each vertebra there is a disc made up of cartilage which acts like padding and protects the spine against shock and provides it with flexibility. This disc has a strong outer layer and a soft jelly-like inner layer. When a disc ruptures, or herniates, the jelly-like layer can leak out or “bulge” through a weak area in the outer layer. And when this happens, it can hurt.

Spine side view showing herniated disc affected area.

Herniated discs, are also sometimes called ruptured discs, slipped discs, prolapsed discs, and bulging discs, and they are common causes of neck, back, arm, and leg pain.

It may take months, or even years, to fully recover from a herniated disc injury. If you need workers’ compensation for a herniated disc caused by your job, contact or call one of our compassionate and skilled attorneys at 1-866-900-7078. We are here to help.

Meet Jack, who we helped with his workers’ comp claim: ““The best part was my attorney was ready to get on whatever was coming up.”

What Are Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?

Symptoms of a herniated disc may include pain and weakness where the disc ruptured. In some cases, the disc will press on the nerves in the spinal column causing nerve damage. Loss of bladder/bowel control, while rare, can also occur.

  • Herniated discs in the neck area will sometimes cause pain, numbness, or tingling in the back of the skull, neck, scapula (shoulder blade), shoulder, arm, and hand.
  • Herniated discs in the low back (lumbar spine) can cause radiating pain, tingling, and numbness in the buttocks, legs, and feet – a condition sometimes called sciatica – and may warrant a lower back workers’ comp settlement.

Types of People and Jobs Susceptible to Herniated Discs

Herniated disc injuries can happen to anyone, but they occur more often in men and in people between the ages of 35 and 55 years old. As people age, their discs lose elasticity and become more rigid which makes them more susceptible to damage. There are several risk factors that increase your chance of sustaining this type of injury:

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People with physically demanding jobs have a greater risk of needing workers’ compensation for a back injury at work. And jobs which include repetitive lifting, pulling, pushing, climbing, bending sideways, and twisting can increase your risk of a herniated disc.

A few occupations that have a higher than average rate of back pain and injuries include:

  • Nursing personnel
  • Construction workers
  • Warehouse workers
  • Truck drivers
  • Farmers, landscapers, and gardeners

Can I Apply for Social Security Disability with a Herniated Disc?

Yes, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits in addition to workers’ compensation benefits if a herniated disc is causing you severe pain and making you unable to work.

Tip: Workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability benefits may be interrelated. If you qualify for both, this is one of many reasons to hire an experienced attorney.

How Do You Diagnose and Treat A Herniated Disc?

Herniated discs can be difficult to diagnose. Diagnostic tools include x-rays, scans, MRIs, discograms, and myelograms (a special x-ray of the spinal canal). Common treatment include bed rest, physical therapy, and over-the-counter and prescription medications, such as epidural steroid or cortisone injections. In more serious cases, surgery is an alternative.

Surgical options for herniated discs suffered at work include:

  • Microdiscectomy: A minimally invasive surgery in which a small part of the bone over the nerve root and/or disc material from under the nerve root is removed to provide more room for the nerve to heal.
  • Laminectomy: The lamina (part of the bony root) of the vertebra is removed or trimmed to create more space for spinal nerves. A common type of laminectomy permits the removal or reshaping of the disc as well.
  • Artificial Disc Replacement: As the name implies, the injured disc is replaced with an artificial one.
  • Fusion Surgery (Spinal Fusion): This surgical technique combines two or more vertebra. However, this is usually a treatment of last resort because it can lead to future deterioration of adjacent discs.

If you need workers’ compensation for a herniated disc, the insurance company may try to deny your claim because of a pre-existing condition affecting your back or neck. Or it may try to settle with you for a back strain or sprain rather than offering a herniated or bulging disc settlement, which usually carries more costly treatment. Call 1-866-900-7078 any day, any time for a free case evaluation. Our workers’ compensation attorneys will work hard to try to ensure that you receive the workers’ compensation benefits you may be entitled.

Other Common Back Injuries from Work

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the back injuries of more than one million workers account for nearly 20 percent of all injuries and illnesses in the workplace. That’s a lot of back pain! To help put that into context, the BLS also states that only the common cold accounts for more lost days of work. Whether your back injury was caused by a single accident at work or has evolved over time, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

Back injuries of more than one million workers account for nearly 20% of all work injuries.

Tip: It is a misconception that a worker has to be pain-free prior to the back injury to file a valid workers’ compensation claim.

The most common types of job-related back injuries are:

  • Strains – when muscles or tendons supporting the spine are twisted, pulled, or torn
  • Sprains – when ligaments connecting two or more bones at a joint are stretched or torn
  • Herniated Discs – when the discs cushioning the spine are ruptured

Back injuries can seriously undermine a worker’s physical abilities and can affect the livelihoods of people in many different types of professions. Here are some of the limitations of back injuries:

  • Back injuries can result in lifting and pushing restrictions, as well as limited twisting, bending, and stooping. A plumber, for example, might be unable to crawl under a house to fix the plumbing.
  • They can affect a person’s ability to lift or push heavy objects. A healthcare worker may no longer be able to help lift patients from hospital beds or push a medical cart from room to room.
  • Many people with back injuries have trouble bending or stooping for extensive periods of time. A housekeeper or certified nursing assistant (CNA) may no longer be able to make beds.
  • Some people with back injuries might require frequent changes in position due to an inability to sit or stand comfortably. Production data entry clerks and telemarketers can no longer sit for long periods of time at their stations.

A work accident that leads to a back injury can happen quickly, but the recovery time can take months or even years. Your situation may be made worse by an insurance company that delays tests and treatments or denies you a workers’ comp settlement for your herniated disc. A workers’ compensation lawyer can help you with these issues and explain what workers’ compensation benefits you may be entitled to.

Tip: If your back injury was caused by a person or entity other than your employer or a co-worker, you may be able to bring a third-party claim against them.

Contact Our Award-Winning Workers’ Compensation Attorneys

Employers carry workers’ compensation insurance to provide financial protection and medical care to workers who are injured on the job. At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, our team understands how to apply the law to workers’ compensation cases, and we fight tirelessly for our clients.

As of February 2021, there are 152 attorneys in North Carolina who can call themselves North Carolina State Bar Board Certified Specialists in Workers’ Compensation law.5 That’s .5% of all attorneys licensed to practice in the state — and several of them work for you.

19 of our attorneys were recognized in the 2022 edition of “Best Lawyers,” as chosen by a thorough peer-review process. Of those 19, 10 were from our workers’ compensation team, including Matthew Healey – 2022 “Lawyer of the Year” for workers’ compensation in Raleigh, as selected by “Best Lawyers in America.”4

Serious injuries demand serious attention, and we have the talent, inside knowledge, and formidable resources to fight for you – anywhere in the Carolinas. If you need workers’ compensation for a herniated disc or other painful back injury from your job, call 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online today. Tell them you mean business!


5 Figures provided by the NC State Bar as of Feb 2021.


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