In industrial, manufacturing, trucking, and office settings, employees are vulnerable to back injuries. Damage to your spine, because of an injury at your North Carolina workplace, could result in the need for spinal surgery.

Doctors usually start with “conservative” treatments such as medications, physical therapy, epidural steroid injections, and pain management. But sometimes, a spine injury causes compression of the spinal cord itself, or of the nerve roots that exit off the main cord and pass through the vertebra to enervate the various parts of the body.

An “HNP” or Herniated Nucleus Pulposus” – a “ruptured disk” – can be a major injury that causes compression of a nerve, and this pressure needs to be alleviated to reduce pain and prevent permanent nerve damage. A ruptured or herniated disk has soft material that leaks out of the disk and comes to rest on the nerve root or possibly, the spinal cord itself. This “nerve root compression” caused by a herniated disk is sort of like a kink in a garden hose – the extruded disk material obstructs the flow of nerve impulses through that “kink” where it touches the nerve, the same way water is obstructed through the hose.

If you have a significant compression on a nerve in your spine, “decompression surgery” may be necessary to get that material off the nerve. Surgery for a significant nerve compression must be prompt. The longer that there is compression to your spine, the more likely you are to have permanent injuries due to the nerve damage caused by the compression. Symptoms of permanent injury can be foot drop, cauda equina, other bowel and bladder dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, and chronic back and radiating pain.

What is the goal of spinal surgery?

Surgical intervention may limit the long-term adverse outcomes from a spinal injury. When you suffer a traumatic injury to your spine, a level of your spine may become unstable. You may have other structures, such as your ligaments, discs or vertebral bone pressing on your spinal nerves. These injuries can happen anywhere in the spine, from the base of the skull all the way down to your tailbone.

The goal of spinal surgery is to relieve the pressure through decompression and if needed, to then re-stabilize the spine. A “spinal fusion” might be performed if your spine needs to be stabilized. Surgeons will remove damaged structures and create space.

Spinal fusion involves packing your bone (taken from your hip, typically) or donor bone around screws, plates or other surgical hardware to mechanically stabilize the spine. Throughout the course of several months, the location of the spinal fusion heals into a solid mass of new bone and becomes stable.  Fusions are sometimes recommended to reduce chronic debilitating back pain.

Will your spine heal fully?

Serious back injuries will often leave you with some permanent limitations. As an employee who suffered a spinal injury at the workplace, you have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim. If you have permanent limitations, you may be eligible for long term workers’ compensation disability benefits and possibly for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits.

Successful claims can help cover procedures such as the spinal fusion following a serious injury to the spine. We have more information regarding back injuries on our web page. We have also handled successfully many spine injury workers’ compensation cases over the years, and would be happy to speak to you, free of charge, about your own situation.