Neck Injuries at Work
Neck injuries come with some of the most severe physical consequences. The cervical spine encases the spinal cord, and damage to the spinal cord is irreversible and can cripple or kill. What many people don’t realize is that cervical spine damage is more likely to be a product of sitting improperly at your desk than from some type of trauma to the neck.
Whether you have suffered a neck injury as a result of poor ergonomics or due to a workplace accident, you need to understand your right to workers’ compensation benefits. For more than a decade, the dedicated team at the Kenton Koszdin Law Office has been helping injured and disabled workers secure the benefits they need.
Schedule a free consultation now to discuss your work-related injury and go over your options for filing for workers’ compensation benefits.
Types of Workplace Neck Injuries
It helps to know the parts of the cervical spine if you want to understand neck injuries: bones (seven vertebrae), discs (soft tissue serving as a shock absorber between the vertebrae), six major ligaments, more than 15 muscles and/or muscle groups and tendons, a complex vascular system serving the brain, and the spinal canal, which houses the spinal cord.
The complexity of the cervical spine and its range of motion (it’s the most flexible part of the spine) make it the most injury-prone part of the spine. Some common workplace neck injuries include:
- Dislocation: A cervical dislocation is a ligament injury signaling an abnormal separation of two or more bones. These typically are traumatic injuries, but they can result from degenerative conditions. There are two types: stable and unstable (minor versus major damage).
- Herniated/bulging disc: Prolonged or continual pressure can result in a herniated or bulging cervical disc. A blow or whiplash motion can herniate or produce a bulging disc, too, especially if a degenerative condition exists at the time of the injury. The difference between a bulging and herniated disc is that in the latter case the disc has ruptured.
- Sprain: These stresses or tears in soft tissue (primarily ligament) can result from sudden movement, continually being in an awkward position, or trauma.
- Strain: Stressed muscles/tendons produce neck strain, ranging from soft tissue that is stretched to tears in muscle and tendon. These injuries can result from a whiplash motion, from repetitive motion, or simply from continually being in an awkward position while you work.
- Contusion. These basically are bruises, and they typically result from a blow or whiplash motion. Internal bleeding is among the cardiovascular risks related to contusions in the neck. Spinal compression from pressure on the spinal cord is another risk in cervical injuries.
- Fracture: Broken necks typically are a high-energy traumatic injury. Compression fractures of the neck are a byproduct of pressure on vertebrae and occur over time. Compression fractures typically afflict older people because of degenerative conditions such as osteoporosis. Though rare, a cervical compression fracture can stem solely from trauma.
The cervical spine encases and protects the spinal cord. When any injury impacts the spinal cord, the effect can be dramatic. If the spinal cord is damaged, the consequences can range from reduced mobility to partial or full paralysis that is irreversible.
Common Neck Injury Symptoms
So, you sit at a desk day in, day out. Why does your neck feel OK on Monday morning but not so great by day’s end? And why does your neck pain slowly inch up the pain scale until you clock out on Friday? The simple answer is that some injuries occur over time, a gradual accumulation of damage.
If you know you are on your way to a full-blown workplace motion or stress injury, you can reverse or minimize the damage. The key to that is knowing what symptoms to look for. Common workplace neck injury symptoms can include:
- Symptoms of dislocation: Look for an eruption of pain from an acute injury, pain that can spread to shoulders and arms. The neck is tender to the touch, with weakness, tingling, or numbness in the arms. Symptoms may also include neck muscle spasms and/or visible deformity.
- Symptoms of a herniated/bulging disc: With a bulging disc, look for tingling, numbness, and weakness in the neck, shoulders, arms, hands, or fingers. With a herniated disc, look for dull to sharp pain in the neck or between the shoulder blades that can be exacerbated by positions and motions. Symptoms may also include pain radiating down the arm to hands or fingers and numbness/tingling in the shoulders or arms.
- Symptoms of neck sprain: Look for pain, particularly at the back of the neck, that increases with movement; pain peaking a day or so after injury occurred; upper shoulder muscle spasms; headache in the back of the head; sore throat; difficulty sleeping and fatigue; tingling/weakness in the arms; reduced neck mobility; irritability and reduced ability to concentrate.
- Symptoms of neck strain: Look for pain in the neck and/or back of the head, upper back, shoulders, and upper arms that can be dull and persistent or sharp and stabbing. Symptoms may also include headaches that can radiate from the base of the skull to the forehead, pain that is worsened by movement, muscle spasms and a stiff neck.
- Symptoms of a contusion: If it’s a simple bruised muscle, expect a bruise and some discomfort. If it’s more serious and affects the spinal cord, look for loss of sensation or tingling/burning in the limbs; loss of feeling/mobility below the injury site; loss of bladder/bowel function; trouble breathing; muscle spasms; cognitive dysfunction such as confusion, trouble concentrating or remembering; sensory problems; problems hearing and speaking; impaired balance; nausea/vomiting; and tinnitus.
- Symptoms of a fracture: Look for pain, tenderness, and swelling; difficulty moving the neck; trouble swallowing; loss of sensation and/or pinprick pains in the limbs; numbness, pain, tingling at the base of the head; impaired/double vision; loss of consciousness.
If you suspect you are experiencing a workplace neck injury, tell your supervisor and seek medical treatment as soon as possible.
Treatments for Neck Injuries
Treatment for a neck injury will really depend on the severity and type of injury. You may just need a few days’ rest and ice, or you could be facing a long-term treatment plan with more extensive interventions. Here’s what you can expect based on the type of injury you may have suffered:
- Treatment for dislocation: After ensuring there is no break, a doctor may use traction and manual manipulation to return the vertebrae to their proper position. If that fails, surgery can be done to reposition vertebrae, potentially with hardware used to keep bones in place. Treatment for strains/sprains typically is part of this care.
- Treatment for a herniated/bulging disc: If it’s a bulging disc, care can include cortisone injections, over-the-counter medication, prescription drugs, and/or physical therapy. If the disc ruptures (herniates), expect medication, heat/cold therapy, and physical therapy. The next step in both cases could be surgery.
- Treatment for neck sprain: Rest and time usually are the keys here. Medications such as anti-inflammatories are common, as are muscle relaxants. Heat/cold therapy is common, too. Physical therapy may also be effective. Most injuries respond and are resolved in six to eight weeks. Severe cases can take much longer to resolve and could require surgery.
- Treatment for neck strain: Over-the-counter drugs and rest might do the trick. If not, treatment may include ice/heat therapy, over-the-counter and prescription painkillers and/or muscle relaxants, injections to numb the injury site, simple exercises or physical therapy, and neck braces. Surgical remedies are rare but possible.
- Treatment for a contusion: If it’s a simple bruised muscle, Mother Nature and time will likely resolve the issue, though a trip to the doctor or emergency room is a must-do to rule out deeper problems. If the spinal cord is affected, treatment may include traction, surgery, and a cast or brace.
- Treatment for a fracture: If minor, a compression fracture can be resolved in about two months by wearing a brace. Severe breaks can mean traction, surgery, months in a rigid cast, or all three.
Regardless of the workplace injury, if it is enough to cost you workdays or even end your capacity to work, California law dictates that you could turn to workers’ compensation for financial relief. However, filing for benefits is not as simple as it should be, so it is important to have a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer on your side.
Our Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Is Here to Help
If you are facing a fight for workers’ compensation benefits or Social Security disability because of a workplace neck injury, contact the Kenton Koszdin Law Office today. Our law firm offers a free, no-obligation case evaluation, which we can do in your home or at our office, wherever is most convenient.