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Wondering how workers' comp works in Georgia? Check out this guide to learn everything you need to know.

About Georgia's Workers' Compensation System

Before Georgia's state government established a system for worker's compensation, employees had no rights to benefits from their employers if they were hurt on the job. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, working conditions were severe and even dangerous, and workers did not have legal options when injured – even if that meant a lifetime of disability.

What Injury on the Job Meant in the Past

Employees around the turn of the 20th century technically could file lawsuits, but these legal actions were generally unsuccessful and brutal for all involved. The trials were long and expensive, and businesses suffered severe brand damage. Injured workers, meanwhile, often came away from experience with no way of paying for medical bills and other costs.

Both sides of the labor equation realized something big needed to change. So they eventually struck a grand bargain: workers would relinquish their right to sue for injuries at work (with some exceptions) in exchange for guarantees for compensation.

In 1920, the Georgia State Legislature instituted the State Board of Worker's compensation to oversee this process. Today, the Board serves over 250,000 Georgia employers and over 3.8 million employees. It receives funding from self-insured employers and insurance company assessments. Any Georgia worker injured at work and covered under the law may be entitled to compensation for lost wages, medical bills, and physical therapy services, among other benefits.

How Georgia's Worker's Compensation Laws Affect Today's Workforce

Georgia's current worker's compensation law applies to all employers with three or more full-time or part-time employees, including public corporations and non-profits. The law allows employees with job-related injuries to receive specific benefits without regard for negligence or fault. It also provides employers with limited liability.

Per state regulations, Georgia employers receive coverage for worker's compensation either through private insurance companies or self-insurance programs. In addition, a worker's rights under the worker's compensation law disqualify them from taking other legal action against the employer in the event of a work-related injury.

A Closer Look at Georgia's Workers' Compensation Laws

Most Georgia employees know little about the state's workers' compensation program and what happens if they're injured at work. This lack of understanding can make the compensation process extraordinarily confusing and stressful. Keep reading to learn more about workers' compensation laws in the state of Georgia.

Penalties for late payments may be assessed in several states, but they are lower in Georgia than in many regions. Depending on the situation, the employer may be required to pay a 15 percent penalty. This penalty can be assessed if benefits were inappropriately denied or the employer simply forgot to send a payment. For this reason, it behooves injured employees in Georgia to keep track of worker's compensation payments and to take note when they do not arrive on time.

Under Georgia law, worker's compensation cases are either catastrophic or non-catastrophic. Typically, a patient is deemed destructive if the injured employee qualifies for Social Security disability benefits. Injuries considered catastrophic include limb amputation, severe brain injury, and industrial blindness.

Georgia employers must maintain a list of six approved doctors employees can visit after injury. In an emergency, employees can obtain treatment from a doctor not included on this list. Still, in all other situations, the physician treating the workplace injury must be one of the employer's six approved medical professionals. Unfortunately, many employers choose physicians they feel will take their side should employees pursue worker's compensation. As a result, injuries may be blamed on preexisting conditions rather than workplace mishaps.

The State Board of Workers' Compensation reports that 39,899 indemnity claims occurred in Georgia in 2014. As a result, indemnity benefits in 2014 totaled $1,056,193,486. Additionally, 830 WC-26 forms indemnity forms were filed that year.

In 2013, Georgia significantly changed its workers' compensation model: many workers were suddenly ineligible for benefits after eight years. As a story from NPR and ProPublica points out, this means that those with knee or hip replacements no longer qualify for coverage if, after a decade, their mobility devices wear out. In the most severe cases, however, injured workers may still be eligible for long-term compensation.

Workers' compensation in Georgia is far from perfect, but as another ProPublica story points out, employees enjoy far greater compensation than those residing in Alabama. For example, in a report comparing similar injuries across state lines, ProPublica revealed a maximum payment of $118,125 for Georgia workers who lose their arm, compared to just $48,840 for the same damage in Alabama.

Workers' compensation varies significantly from one state to the next. You could obtain significant compensation for your workplace injury as a Georgia resident. Still, your chances of claim acceptance are far greater if you work with a trusted workers' compensation attorney.

The more you know about workers' compensation in Georgia, the better. Contact Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP, today for more information.

The State Board of Workers' Compensation reports that 31,500 indemnity claims occurred in Georgia in 2021. Indemnity benefits, or replacement of lost wages, in 2021 totaled $706,673,059. https://sbwc.georgia.gov/organization/about-state-board-workers-compensation/statistics

Understand Where Exceptions Apply

While the law applies broadly to most employees in the state, there are some exceptions. For example, federal employees, railroad workers, farm workers, and domestic servants are exempt from Georgia's worker's compensation law.

A separate agency, the Subsequent Injury Trust Fund, works with the State Board of Worker's Compensation to reimburse employers and insurers for a part of worker's compensation benefits. This secondary agency oversees cases where an employee has a preexisting injury or disability, and a work-related accident worsens.

Fault Or No Fault? That Is The Question.

This morning I was on my Thursday morning radio show, and a caller asked, "If I am injured on the job, and I was at fault, can I still get worker's compensation in Georgia?"

Simple answer: YES!

This is the beauty of the Georgia Worker's Compensation system. Even if you cause the accident, you can still recover. The question is not whether it is your fault or someone else's fault. The question is, "Is your injury causally related to your job duties?"

What does this mean? This means that your injury is related to your job.

Let's suppose that one day you are at work and you decide to lift a pipe that weighs 300 lbs even though you know you can't lift 300 lbs and your boss has told you that you should wait for help before you lift the 300 lbs. But you go to pick up the pipe and drop it right on your foot, fracturing every bone.

You are still covered under workers' compensation. The reason is that you performed your duties when the accident happened. It may not have been an excellent decision to do what you did, but that doesn't matter.

However, if you lift the same pipe and then feel pain in your body and go in, and the doctor says you have cancer, this would not be workers' compensation because cancer could not have been caused by lifting a pipe.

Fault or no fault, it just doesn't matter.

If you have been injured at work, call us now. We will provide a free consultation and let you know whether your injury is covered under the law.

What If You Were Sick or Disabled Before Your Work Injury?

Preexisting conditions can quickly complicate otherwise straightforward Georgia workers' compensation cases. A preexisting condition won't necessarily bar you from receiving the benefits you want. Still, you will need extensive documentation indicating that your job exacerbated the situation and led to greater suffering.

The Burden of Proving That the Workplace Incident Worsened the Condition

Employees afflicted with preexisting conditions may be eligible for workers' compensation if workplace duties lead to more severe symptoms. But your employer is only responsible for worsening your condition — not the condition itself. You might be similarly entitled to damages if a previous workplace injury was re-aggravated at your present job. The claim amount may be lowered to accommodate previous workers' compensation claims in such cases.

The Workers' Compensation Act and Preexisting Conditions

Georgia's Workers' Compensation Act significantly limits the extent to which employees with preexisting conditions can seek compensation; compensation is only available when work-related aggravation causes the disability. Once an employee returns to a pre-injury state, the Workers' Compensation Act mandates that payment cease.

Recent changes in legislation have limited compensation for re-aggravated conditions to 400 weeks from the date of the accident. However, lifetime medical benefits may be available for catastrophic injuries or those before June 30, 2013.

Providing Appropriate Documentation

Whether your preexisting condition occurred at work or in some other capacity, you will need to document your previous injury and its impact on your life before your most recent workplace injury. Decrease workers' compensation denial likelihood by seeking documentation from your physician or federal agencies that provided previous workers' comp benefits. Supplement this with proof of your current disability, including recent tests and medical records. If employer-approved physicians deny your condition, seek further feedback from an independent medical professional.

If you've suffered a worsening of a preexisting condition in the workplace, contact Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP today to learn more about filing for workers' compensation.

What If I Refuse to Work?

It would be great if, when you were injured, you never had to return to work while recovering. But unfortunately, this is never the goal of the insurance company. The purpose of the worker's compensation system is for you to be back to work.

What happens when you are asked to return to work and do not believe you can return to work? Can you refuse to work?

The answer is yes, but only in certain situations. For example, if you have been injured and taken entirely out of work by your authorized physician, you would not have to return to work until the doctor has either released you to regular duty or placed you on duty work restrictions.

If you have been placed on light duty work by your doctor, the insurance company would have to find a suitable light duty job, have the doctor sign off on the job approving it as appropriate, and then file a form WC-240. Lastly, they must give you ten days' notice to return. If all of this happens, you must return to work. (If the job is not the job on the description, you are allowed not to perform the job. Contact an attorney before you make this decision).

Suppose you have been released to regular duty by your authorized treating physician. In that case, you must return to work until you find that another doctor has completely taken you out of work or placed you again on light duty.

Either way, if you have been released to light duty and have been asked to go back to work and you feel that you are not able or have been released to regular duty, it is essential to contact an attorney to make sure you are protected.

Maximizing the Income Benefit

Georgia workers' compensation is an incredibly unique animal. Unlike a personal injury case where the judge or jury decides the case and the damages are awarded based upon the injury, wage loss, and pain and suffering, in Georgia, an injured worker is only entitled to certain measurable and enumerated benefits. Therefore, there is no entitlement to a settlement. However, with the help of an attorney, an injured worker can receive compensation by using these benefits outlined in the law to plug into a "formula" for determination. But this is not simply a 1+1 formula. Instead, it is based upon the projected value of benefits owed, the likelihood of success on the case, and the probability of the injured worker improving health. This is where a skilled attorney comes into play.

Part of this formula for determining the settlement value of a case is a weekly wage check paid for by the insurance company. The check is not the full check you received when you were working. Instead, it only reflects your actual wage, coming to approximately 66% of your wage. That is 66% of your wage for earnings up to $550. This means if a person earns more than $833 per week, the most they would receive is $550. For example, if the injured person were earning $1,500 per week, they would receive $550.

Although not a tremendous improvement, Georgia HB 818 was just approved, and beginning on July 1, 2016, the maximum income benefit for an injured worker will go up to $575. This sounds like a slight increase. However, the increase comes to almost $10,000 increase over the entire life of a case.

This benefit will not be retroactive but at least will help injured workers from July 1 and continue receiving a greater portion of the benefits they deserve.

After your work injury, how can you move on with your life? You've mapped out your goals. You know precisely what you want and what it will take to achieve your ambitions. So why are you still stuck at step one?

Obtaining fair compensation can beat down even the most optimistic employees, but this is not the time to give up hope. Keep reading to learn more about overcoming everyday obstacles:

Considering Other Professions

Despite fully recovering, you may have discovered that you are no longer cut out for highly physical work. Refrain from stubbornly pursuing a career path that no longer makes sense. You can still fulfill your goal of feeling productive; you might have to pursue your dream in a different capacity. For example, instead of taking on the more physical aspects of construction, you could work in the office or try for a management position. In addition, your experience could prompt new endeavors, such as campaigning for better adherence to workplace safety standards.

Changing professions may prove necessary. Don't let a new career path scare you; take time to acquaint yourself with your new field. Seek training from community colleges or apprentice programs. Utilize the numerous transferable skills developed in your previous profession.

Only Equating Success With Your Job

Professional pursuits can deliver fulfillment, but a successful career is by no means the only hallmark of a satisfying life. If you can no longer resume your previous job, find new ways to define yourself. Hobbies, volunteer efforts, and strong relationships can fill the void left by a demanding career. Set goals outside of the work world and celebrate each new achievement.

Overcome legal and personal obstacles with assistance from Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP. Our team is here to help you succeed. Call or email us to set up a confidential case consultation.

After a Georgia Workplace Injury: Preparing to Return to Your Chosen Field

Despite having suffered an injury on the job, you are determined to return to your former profession. This is a wise choice, not only for your finances but also for your mental health and social life. As you recover, however, you'll encounter new challenges, both physical and mental. These challenges can make previously simple workplace tasks a lot more complicated. So keep the following in mind as you return to your chosen field:

Take it Slow

It's tempting to return full force and prove that you are as capable as ever, but that is a recipe for aggravating your injury. So be careful, and do not take on more than you can handle.

Many employers are surprisingly forgiving of workers who cannot fully take on their former duties after injury. Consider asking your employer for a different set of responsibilities as you continue to recover. Again, communication is vital — your employer will not know if a job is beyond your capacity unless you speak up.

Document Your Symptoms

Keep a careful record of your symptoms at work and home. If your condition worsens, take detailed notes and seek prompt medical care. Depending on your current situation and recovery, you may be eligible for ongoing benefits, such as intermittent lost time or reduced earning honors.

Use Good Judgment and Consider Switching Careers

Even the most determined employees often cannot return to their former duties after suffering a workplace injury. It is worth trying, of course, but if you cannot handle your former job, it may be time to consider working in a new field. Of course, only you know what you can take, so be aware of your post-injury abilities.

The mental burden can be considerable in the aftermath of a workplace injury. Keep the legal stress to a minimum with help from Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP.

Finding Work in a New Field After Your Georgia Work Injury

After suffering a workplace injury and undergoing a grueling recovery period, you believe you're ready to work again — but not for your former employer. Your injuries may be too severe, or your mental trauma too significant to handle the demands of your old job. Knowing your limits is good, but your workers' compensation will only carry you so far. So keep the following considerations in mind as you hunt for a new job in a new career field:

Think About the Physical Aspects of Your New Career 

Could you be trading one physically grueling field for another? Some jobs seem more accessible to outsiders than they are, so do your research and determine whether you can handle the physical demands of your intended career path. It may help to shadow somebody in the field so that you know exactly what a typical day on the job will entail.

Utilize Your Transferable Skills

Many of the skills you developed in your previous profession can be used to transfer seamlessly into a new field. As you search for a new career path, take stock of all you've accomplished thus far, and determine which skills new employers might value. For example, communication skills can be developed even in very physical jobs, and the teamwork you've demonstrated in your past work might impress a new employer.

Frame This Transition As An Exciting Opportunity

Transiting may prove difficult if you loved the job you had before your injury. Instead of viewing this career shift as a burden, consider the possibilities. What began as a devastating injury may end with you discovering the career of your dreams.

As you pursue work in a new field, Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP can help you obtain the workers' compensation you are owed. Call 770-214-2500 for more information.

The Road to Recovery After Your Georgia Work Injury

Recovery after a workplace injury can be frustratingly slow, but your ultimate goal is to get back to work as soon as possible. Minimal stress and a healthy lifestyle can accelerate the recovery process, so be sure to incorporate the following practices into your daily life:

Pursue Strength Training

Strength training can help your body bounce back from injury while reducing the potential for future injuries. If you're already working with a physical therapist, complete all the exercises you've been instructed to do at home. In the future, it may also help to work with a personal trainer.

Eat a Healthy Diet

The proper nutrients can make a huge difference as you embark on the recovery process — and foods that lack nutrients can bring your progress to a standstill. Of course, fruits and vegetables are essential, but healthy protein sources are equally crucial for muscle repair. Likewise, keep refined carbohydrates to a minimum. Keeping all food groups in moderation will result in a balanced diet and a healthier body.

Tackle Stress

The mental aspects of recovery are often more challenging than the physical pain and discomfort. It's easy to get discouraged, especially if the recovery process doesn't go as quickly as you anticipated. However, the last thing you need right now is additional stress, so tackle it head-on through prayer, meditation, yoga, or regular visits with a therapist.

Documentation

Certain behaviors and practices may worsen your condition, but documentation makes it easier to identify patterns. For example, record your diet, strength training regimen, and any symptoms you observe during the day. Then, make adjustments accordingly, based on the advice of your physician or physical therapist.

As you tackle the mental and physical aspects of recovery, let Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP handle the legal side of your case.

Getting Back to Work After Your Injury

In your vision of life after your work injury, you've returned to work following a lengthy recovery period. You may carry out the same daily tasks that occupied your time before your injury. Another possible outcome: your injury convinced you to take stock of your career and what it could be. Rather than return to your former job, you now enjoy a better position for an employer who values your health and safety. Either way, you earn enough to get by and enjoy complete professional satisfaction.

Work-Life Balance After Your Work Injury

There is more to life than work. While the right job can deliver fulfillment, many people with seemingly miserable occupations find happiness. Be realistic about your job prospects; if a total return to work isn't in the cards, envision a satisfying life away from the daily grind. Your injury may keep you from your previous position, but you can still make the most of your talent as a part-time employee or volunteer.

Allow Yourself to Mourn

Denying reality will only make you feel worse. If your injury destroyed your career trajectory, take some time to feel bad about it. Set a limit on your mourning, however. In special situations, Georgia workers' compensation covers mental health treatment; take advantage of counseling opportunities.

Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP can help you navigate your workers' compensation settlement and achieve your dream life. Get in touch today to learn more.

Avoiding Reinjury After Your Georgia Work Injury

A workplace injury has left you unable to complete your typical job duties. Reinjury could result in a much more extended leave and may even call the legitimacy of your earlier workers' compensation claim into doubt. At this point, avoiding additional injury should be your chief priority. Speak with your doctor and therapist about the following potentially innovative ideas:

Yoga After Your Injury

A limber body and a good balance are crucial to injury prevention. Consider enrolling in an easy yoga class at a local studio, or better yet, one specifically targeted at people dealing with illness and injury. Avoid the temptation to challenge yourself with an advanced course such as vinyasa or ashtanga, as overdoing it could lead to the exact afflictions you're trying to prevent.

Take it Easy

There are better times to try strenuous new activities such as water skiing or snowboarding than the aftermath of a workplace injury. Recreation-related reinjury is not eligible for compensation, and it could even call your previous injury into doubt. Consult a physician before trying any potentially strenuous activities.

As you recover, look to Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP, for assistance with your Georgia worker's compensation claim.

Resources for After Your Georgia Work Injury

Knowledge is power in the aftermath of a workplace injury. These resources will provide valuable insight and inspiration as you recover from your injury and prepare for your return to the workforce:

Workers' compensation varies significantly from one state to the next. Learn more about regional disparities in this report from NPR and ProPublica, which shines a much-needed light on problematic issues with workers' comp and the treatment of injured employees.

Over time, the failure to provide proper coverage for injured employees leads to significant financial hardship. This Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) report highlights workers' compensation (or lack thereof) 's role in income inequality. It also offers suggestions for better protecting workers in the future.

As an employee, you may have little control over your employers' safety standards and adherence to OSHA regulations. However, you can avoid joint issues like carpal tunnel syndrome and eye strain. This Howcast video is most applicable to office workers but offers advice for those who regularly move heavy loads.

You'll instantly relate to this story of woe from injured worker Bill Bowman. Bowman details how he and his family were impacted by workplace injury in this free podcast. Although he hails from Canada, his story offers valuable insight for anybody injured on the job.

The more you know about workers' compensation and its role in your recovery, the better. So get educated; contact Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP, for more information on workers' comp in Georgia.

A monthly podcast from the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards (IAIABC), Accidentally offers compelling insights into workers' compensation: its history, how it stands today, and anticipated innovations.

WCRI is committed to providing the public with accurate, up-to-date information on workers' compensation and its role in the United States economy. The organization offers extensive benchmark information.

Although created in Australia, this YouTube video applies to injured workers in the United States who struggle to overcome unfortunate stereotypes of laziness and lethargy. In These Are Our Stories, Australians recovering from illnesses and conditions incurred on the job speak of their suffering, their recovery, and their hopes for lives free of pain and negative judgment.

Thousands of workers are killed yearly, and many more are injured due to safety violations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has yet to release violation information for 2017, but the 2016 list is in keeping with long-term trends. Ongoing issues include a complete lack of protection against falls, poor hazard communication, and minimal respiratory protection. A thorough understanding of these issues and their role in your injury (or could play in future injuries) could impact the capacity in which you eventually choose to return to work.

Once you've finished looking through the resources outlined above, contact Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP, to learn about workers' compensation.

What Are the Psychological Costs of Being on Worker's Compensation For an Extended Period?

In the short term, worker's compensation allows you to step back from a dangerous workplace setting and recover from injuries sustained on the job. Over time, however, a lack of meaningful work may leave you feeling socially and mentally unfulfilled, placing you at greater risk of depression. If you're currently on worker's compensation, look out for the problems detailed below:

Lack of Social Connection

One of the most underrated benefits of working a full-time job is spending significant time within a close social network. You might not always like your coworkers, but you have a great deal in common with them — and they can provide a shoulder to lean on when the going gets tough. Unfortunately, you may feel lonelier and less connected to your once solid social group if you spend your time away from work while receiving worker's compensation. This sense of disconnection could ultimately lead to depression.

Learned Helplessness

Learned helplessness occurs when a victim or perceived victim develops a mindset of powerlessness. This is the brain's way of dealing with traumatic situations, but unfortunately, it can make it very difficult to move forward. For example, employees injured on the job may develop learned helplessness and rely on their worker's compensation as a crutch, thereby failing to reclaim the sense of accomplishment that once accompanied a successful day on the job.

As you strive for a worker's compensation claim that aligns with the severity of your injury, keep in mind that there could be a downside to taking long breaks from work. However, this understanding should allow you to take advantage of the compensation you're owed. Instead, help you avoid mental health problems that commonly strike employees who spend extended periods away from the workplace.

Contact Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP at your earliest convenience to learn more about the legal aspects of worker's compensation.

Adapting to a Different Lifestyle After Your Injury

There's no denying it—your workplace injury changed everything. Whether you currently suffer physical pain or anxiety about your future, life no longer looks quite like it did before your accident. The key to moving forward in peace? Acknowledging and accepting what's true now. As the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu eloquently said, "Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them—that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."

Follow these suggestions to get your life back on track:

Determine What's Different Now

Take a few minutes to think carefully about your day-to-day life and how it's changed since the accident. Examples may include:

Clarify Your True Feelings and Needs

Once you've determined how life differs today, delve into your true feelings about the situation and your plans to move forward. Then, in your journal, reflect on the following questions:

A little reflection can make a big difference as you determine how to proceed. Life might not look exactly like it did before your workplace accident, but there's still plenty to accomplish and plenty to celebrate.

No matter how your life has changed—whether a lower back injury has made it impossible to lift your young child without pain or whiplash from a construction accident has caused you to rack up thousands in chiropractor bills—you can count on Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP for support. Call (770) 214-2500 today to learn how we can assist you with your Georgia workers' compensation case.

Spine injuries are not to be taken lightly; if you have been injured at work, you may need to seek workers' compensation for your back injury. Back injuries involving severe trauma frequently lead to spinal cord damage. Ensuing problems could be life-changing, with victims suffering partial or complete paralysis. Immediate treatment is imperative, so it's essential to understand the condition and recognize symptoms.

What Is the Spinal Cord?

The spinal cord comprises a bundle of nerve fibers enclosed within the spine. This critical group of threads connects most body parts to the brain. Together, the brain and spinal cord form the central nervous system.

Spinal Nerves

Dozens of spinal nerves emerge from the spinal cord, appearing in short branches known as roots. Sensory roots carry information from all over the body to the brain. Motor roots deliver commands from the brain to various body parts, including skeletal muscles.

Common Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries are among the most permanently debilitating of all back problems. These injuries are defined based on where they occur and the severity of the damage. These factors also determine how much patients can control their limbs following injury. A complete injury occurs when the patient loses nearly all feeling and motor function below the site of damage. Those with incomplete injuries retain some motor or sensory function.

If the injury impacts the arms, legs, trunk, and internal organs, it may be referred to as quadriplegia. Paraplegia occurs when the legs, trunk, and internal organs are affected, but not the arms and hands.

Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injuries

Top spinal cord injury symptoms include loss of motor function and feeling in the affected areas. Additionally, spinal cord damage could lead to loss of bladder control, difficulty breathing, exaggerated spasms, lack of coordination, or an intense stinging sensation.

In the aftermath of a spinal cord injury, getting in touch with a trusted workers' compensation attorney is essential. Contact Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP at your earliest convenience at (770) 214-2500.

Getting Workers' Compensation For Back Injuries

The back is a surprisingly complicated structure, making it difficult to ascertain the specific cause and solution to chronic pain. However, as a back pain sufferer, it behooves you to gain a thorough understanding of the damage you may have endured. Read on to learn about the vertebrae, which play a critical role in numerous injuries:

What Are Vertebrae?

Vertebrae consist of a series of nearly three dozen interlocking bones. Together, these make up the spinal column. Each vertebra features a load-bearing body, an arch that protects the spinal cord, and attachment points that ensure flexible movement.

Classifying Vertebrae

Experts classify vertebrae based on their position. For example, the spinal column's upper portion features cervical vertebrae, while thoracic vertebrae offer attachment points for the ribs. In addition, the sacral and caudal vertebrae are fused into the sacrum and tailbone.

Common Vertebral Injuries

Various injuries strike the vertebrae; most are serious enough to cause severe pain. Vertebral compression fractures may occur in response to osteoporosis but can also result from excessive pressure or a hard fall. Severe compression fractures are known as burst fractures; these occur when the bone shatters, with bone fragments possibly piercing the spinal cord.

Although less severe than burst fractures, vertebral dislocation can prove quite painful. A dislocation occurs when one or more vertebrae are displaced, typically in response to a traumatic neck injury. Occasionally, dislocation and fractures occur at the same time, damaging both soft tissue and the spinal cord.

Symptoms of vertebral injuries vary somewhat based on the severity and whether a burst occurs, but sufferers can expect to experience intense pain, which worsens while standing or walking. Many also suffer a reduced range of motion.

If you suspect you've suffered a vertebral injury on the job, contact Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP at (770) 214-2500 to learn more about your options.

Connective Tissue Injuries and Workers Compensation

When picturing back injuries, people typically imagine fractures or other acute issues. But, some of the most common—and debilitating—conditions involve chronic connective tissue damage. Keep reading for a brief overview of need-to-know terms and other valuable information about connective tissue-related pain.

Tendons and Ligaments

Tendons and ligaments are fibrous bands of connective tissue that link two or more structures (typically bones or cartilage) together. These tissue bands are often to blame for work-related back pain; employees may twist or pull tendons or ligaments while completing everyday work functions—the result: strains and sprains, which involve muscle cramping and significantly decreased range of motion.

Fascia

Often compared to sweaters due to their densely woven structure, fascia cover bones, muscles, nerves, and internal organs. They also protect the spinal cord.

An oft-forgotten element of spinal injuries, fascia remains poorly understood. Fascia injuries typically follow repeated strain, such as heavy lifting or frequent bending. As a result, patients may experience dull pain or more intense sensations that worsen while completing essential workday tasks. Over time, fascia injuries may lead to trigger points (and further pain) or reduced strength and range of motion.

Synovial Membrane

A protective layer of connective tissue responsible for protecting tendons and joints, the synovial membrane (also known as the synovium) can become inflamed or damaged by traumatic joint injuries. This may lead to pain or swelling. In addition, synovial cysts often result from spinal degeneration. Although uncommon, this condition can cause back pain, leg pain (known as sciatica), and sometimes, muscle weakness or cramping in the legs.

Whether you've suffered a workplace injury to your fascia, tendon, or ligament, seek experienced counsel. Reach out to Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP at (770) 214-2500 to learn about the next strategic steps in your workers' compensation for your back injury.

Taking Care of Your Back After a Workplace Accident

A shocking 80 percent of Americans experiences back pain at some point. While many witnesses gradual onset with age, others suffer acute pain due to workplace accidents. Quick recovery hinges on prompt medical attention and proper care at home.

Eager to eradicate back pain? This is not a medical blog. And you should never change your exercise or dietary regimen before speaking with your doctor—but you might find these insights valuable.

Rethinking Bed Rest?

Medical experts once prescribed rest as a cure-all for back problems, but recent research suggests prolonged rest could hurt more than it helps. So today, authorities recommend gently resuming physical activity soon after an accident. A daily stroll can make a difference, as can recovery-oriented yoga classes.

Take Regular Breaks

Instead of committing to long, uninterrupted periods of bed rest, talk to your doctor/therapist about taking regular breaks to avoid overloading your back. Breaks may prove necessary for both physical and sedentary activities. For example, instead of sitting at your desk all afternoon, stand up and move around at least once every half hour.

Be Diligent About Physical Therapy

Occasionally visiting your physical therapist is not good enough; honor all appointments and complete any recommended exercises. Be honest with your physical therapist about your routine and current pain. Avoid underplaying or exaggerating what's happening to you.

Don't Expect an Immediate Recovery

Moderate your expectations. Anticipate weeks, possibly even months, of difficulty following your back injury. Stay calm if your back heals more slowly than you initially hoped. You could suffer even worse injuries if you push recovery and try to return to your routine before you're ready.

Let Smith, Wallis, and Scott handle the legal aspects of your workers' compensation for your back injury. Then, call us at (770) 214-2500 to schedule a free, confidential case evaluation.

DON'T INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING POSTS. I DON'T THINK A WORKERS COMP LAWYER SHOULD BE GIVING MEDICAL ADVICE ON HIS WEBSITE. IT SOUNDS MORE LIKE CORNERSTONE CONTENT THAN LEGAL ADVICE. WE CAN STILL REDIRECT THESE PAGES TO THIS BLOG, BUT I DON'T THINK IT WOULD BE WISE TO USE THEM.

Hurt Back At Work? What To Make Of The Ideas Of Dr. John Sarno

An influential, yet controversial figure, Dr. John Sarno hypothesized a psychosomatic condition known as tension myositis syndrome. Also referred to as tension myoneural syndrome (TMS), the condition characterizes a variety of nerve issues that lack an obvious physical trigger, including, most notably, chronic back pain. His research provides an alternate perspective for those suffering chronic pain months, even years after a workplace injury.

Is Back Pain Physical or Mental?

In "Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection," Dr. Sarno claims that pain not relieved by typical medical treatments can be blamed on repressed emotional problems. He doesn't suggest the pain is inside your head; he argues that it's real and it results from an intense battle within your mind. It's a controversial theory, but his allegedly successful treatment of over ten thousand patients indicates that psychosomatic issues may indeed play a role in ongoing back pain.

The Link Between TMS and Workplace Injuries

Your workplace accident may be to blame for initial back pain, but per the TMS hypothesis, post-traumatic issues could be at fault for at least some ongoing symptoms; Dr. Sarno believes psychological struggles can manifest as physical pain. He argues that your pain will continue until you unearth and deal with repressed emotions.

Blogger Paul Ingraham offers a more in depth review of Dr. Sarno's work in this series of posts. This obituary in the New York Times offers another valuable perspective. Notably, the Times writes: "Some of [Sarno's] ideas, like his assertion that there is no correlation between chronic back pain and herniated discs, have been validated by research published in The New England Journal of Medicine."

Healing the Body With the Mind

Irrespective of what you think about the TMS hypothesis, workplace victims can take the following away from Dr. John Sarno's books: Mental attitude can have a huge impact on physical recovery. Although your current pain likely originated with a legitimate injury, it might now be treatable. If you have a clean bill of health but lingering pain several months after your accident, it may be time to explore what mental triggers could be impeding your success.

Regardless of the nature of your workplace injury, it is imperative that you seek counsel from a lawyer you trust. Look to the team at Smith, Wallis and Scott for exceptional representation. We're available for a private, confidential consultation at (770) 214-2500.

Trigger Points And Back Injuries: The Basics

Whether you wrenched your back in a lifting accident—a single moment of agony—or hurt yourself through repetitive work over months or years, you'd like to understand the root cause of your discomfort. Why does your pain fail to correspond directly to the injured point? Why do your muscles feel tight and/or tender to the touch? Why does the right massage—done in just the right way—give you so much temporary relief?

The answer could be that your back injury has been caused by (or exacerbated by) myofascial trigger points.

Defining Trigger Points

In 1942, Dr. Janet Travell coined the term "trigger point" in hopes of describing and treating a phenomenon with the following attributes:

Although they can appear in numerous locations, trigger points are most commonly seen in the shoulders, neck, pelvis, and hips.

Referred Pain

Trigger points share some attributes with tender points, but their defining characteristic is referred pain. If pressure is placed on one point, it may refer, or transfer some of the pain to another location. For example, a trapezius-based trigger point can refer pain up the side of the neck and all the way to the head. This referred pain may ultimately lead to a severe headache.

What Causes Trigger Points to Activate?

Many factors prompt trigger point activation, including:

If trigger points activate in one region of the body, other areas may also activate in response.

Once you've identified the source of your pain and the cause, you can take steps to address and eliminate it. In our next blog, we'll explore pain relief options—stay tuned!

Call Smith, Wallis, and Scott at (770) 214-2500 to learn more about your legal options as a trigger point patient.

Trigger Point Therapy To Treat Workers' Compensation Injuries: An Overview

Opinions of myofascial trigger point therapy vary wildly depending on who you ask. Some people tout this alternative approach to pain relief as a miracle cure; others refer to it as bogus science or even actively harmful. The reality, however, probably lies somewhere in the middle: trigger point therapy does not benefit all pain sufferers, but it possibly holds plenty of promise.

What are Trigger Points?

Trigger points are small focal spots found on taut bands of muscle. When improperly activated, they supposedly cause severe, localized pain, or in some cases, immobility. However, in applying direct pressure to problem areas, afflicted individuals instead experience a dull ache, which eventually gives way to relief. This concept is known as referral pain.

What are the Purported Benefits of Trigger Point Therapy?

Advocates claim that applying pressure to localized spots of pain can effectively spur alleviation, freeing sufferers of the need for drug therapy and accompanying side effects. Additionally, advocates claim that myofascial therapy delivers prompt results, with chronic pain sufferers experiencing desperately-needed relief after just one treatment.

Are There Any Downsides?

According to skeptics, trigger point compression does not solve underlying problems, and it is therefore nothing more than a Band-Aid preventing pain sufferers from seeking a more permanent solution. This approach can be downright dangerous if conducted in a DIY manner or by an inexperienced therapist.

What the Science Says

Researchers remain skeptical of trigger point therapy, but there are signs of hope for advocates who require empirical evidence. In a notable study published in BMC Medicine, those prescribed myofascial therapies showed marked improvements over the control group after twelve weeks of shoulder-based intervention. More research is needed, however, to determine whether this is an effective treatment for other sources of pain.

Trigger point therapy may or may not become your go-to solution for chronic or acute pain—speak with a physician before engaging in any self-therapy or treatment like this. But you can count on the qualified Georgia workers' compensation attorneys at Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP to help you obtain fair benefits.

Treating Trigger Points After A Work-Related Back Injury

Myofascial trigger points (TPS) remain a mystery; while recent research has uncovered many possible causes and treatment approaches, no one solution applies to all TPS sufferers. Some patients may be forced to try several approaches before finding one that works consistently. The following are a few of the best options for trigger point relief. (Please note that this is not a health blog, and we are not attempting to diagnose or treat you here! See your physician if you're in pain and before you start any medical treatment.)

Strength Training

Many patients suffer TPS due to muscle overload. Strength training prevents new trigger points by reducing the risk of overexertion. However, to be effective, strength training generally must be undertaken on a gradual basis. An overly ambitious regimen could lead to far worse trigger point pain.

Soft Tissue Massage

In the short-term, self-massage can often provide significant relief. However, a certified massage therapist can better target problem areas. Look for a therapist experienced in trigger point therapy.

Dry Needling

Sometimes referred to as intramuscular stimulation, dry needling stimulates myofascial trigger points, allowing physical therapists to reach areas that cannot be manually targeted.

Acupuncture

Not to be confused with dry needling, acupuncture has relieved both acute and chronic pain for thousands of years. Acupuncturists focus on meridians, where the energy, or Qi, may be concentrated. A study published by the International Association for the Study of Pain found a high degree of correspondence between trigger points and acupuncture points.

Myopulse

A sophisticated non-invasive therapy, myopulse treatment involves application of low voltage micro-currents, which, when sent through injured areas, promote quick pain relief and long-term healing.

Trigger point sufferers typically begin with non-invasive therapies such as strength training or massage, switching to more advanced approaches if necessary. No one strategy will work equally well for all TPS patients; be open to trying unfamiliar treatments (with your physician's careful guidance).

Call Smith, Wallis, and Scott at (770) 214-2500 to learn more about obtaining workers' compensation benefits in Georgia.

Trigger Point Resources For Injured Georgia Workers

If you suspect trigger points (TPS) are responsible for your current work-related back pain, the following resources offer useful insight:

The Concise Book of Trigger Points

A classic in the growing trigger point field, this essential guide has been translated into over twenty languages. Although published over a decade ago, the manual has been updated on numerous occasions with the latest research. Detailed information and illustrations will help your (and your doctor) navigate TPS and referred pain.

Trigger Points Explained With Animation

Looking for a simplified explanation of trigger points, accompanied by easy-to-understand visuals? Check out this YouTube video, which breaks down all the terminology you struggle to keep straight.

What Is a Trigger Point? Trigger Points Explained

Wizard of Health offers a simple trigger point 101 video on YouTube. The four-minute clip provides a basic definition of trigger points, along with a break-down of the confusing terms included in the typical medical definition. The video also provides a valuable analogy involving an adapter plugged into a socket, which makes it easier to grasp confusing concepts.

Needling Therapies in the Management of Myofascial Trigger Point Pain

Interested in dry needling or acupuncture? This notable study explores the expanding role of these therapies in TPS pain management. Further insight into dry needling can be found in an additional study from the APTA's Physical Therapy journal.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome Support Group

Finding social support for your condition can be a real struggle. Thankfully, multiple support groups exist online. This group from DailyStrength is especially valuable. Browse existing threads or ask the group's 200+ members for input. (Of course, do not engage in any therapy without first consulting a qualified physician.)

The better you understand trigger point-induced pain, the better you can advocate for yourself as a workers' compensation claimant. Smith, Wallis, and Scott can help you every step of the way; contact us today to learn more.

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