April 1, 2020

Delay in Treatment of Your Back Pain May be Hazardous to Your Health

low back painIn my Georgia workers’ compensation law practice I interact with dozens of insurance companies each week and I frequently find that claims adjusters take a very short sighted approach towards medical treatment for back injuries.

At least half of the clients I represent are suffering from some form of back injury. Low back pain (often disc herniations at L5/S1) is the most common problem I see but I also represent clients with damage to the spine at all regions: cervical, lumbar, sacral and thoracic.

Regardless of where the injury is localized, a common argument I have with insurance adjusters has to do with the need for fast treatment.

Despite dozens of research studies which show that fast diagnosis and treatment of any type of back injury results in faster and more complete recovery, I almost always find that insurance companies work to limit access to care and slow down the course of treatment.

Even in cases where an MRI shows a herniated disc that will require surgery, I inevitably find myself fighting to get the insurance company to agree to a surgeon, authorize surgery, approve post-surgical physical therapy or agree to pay for even short term prescriptions for beds, home modifications or even medications.

Delays in treatment are especially dangerous when nerve function is impaired since damaged nerves in spinal regions often do not restore to full function if not treated quickly.

While some minor back injuries will respond to rest and over-the-counter pain meds, more serious injuries will not and it amazes me that many insurance adjusters do not understand the distinction.

Here is my non-exhaustive checklist of factors that signal to me that your back injury is serious and needs more than pain meds or a few days rest:

  • is your pain severe and getting worse even after 5 to 7 days’ rest and pain meds?
  • is your pain worse at night?
  • does your pain wake you up from sleeping, especially pain radiating into one or both legs?
  • has the pain in your back spread to your abdomen, groin, genitals or inner thighs?
  • are you having trouble with urination or bowel movements?
  • are you experiencing numbness in one or both of your legs or arms?
  • do you have severe pain when you take a deep breath?
  • do you have loss of grip strength in your hands or feet?

If you are living with these or similar problems, time is not your friend. The longer treatment is delayed, your recovery and restoration of function be delayed as well.

Unfortunately, in a workers’ compensation context, we have the additional problem of trying to get you to a physician whose focus will be on treating you appropriately, rather than minimizing the extent (and cost) of your treatment so that you can be released to full time work.

You may be in the same position as some of the potential clients who call me, struggling with the question about how to proceed. On one hand, you may be concerned about the implications of pursuing a workers’ compensation claim – possibly losing your job and your financial means of supporting yourself and your family.. On the other hand, your gut may be telling you that this injury is not a strain that will heal itself over time.

My advice to you would be “trust your gut.” You know your body better than any doctor and if you are not getting better with passive treatment then you are not wrong for concluding that something is not right and let’s take another approach.  Georgia law does give us several options when company provided medical care is not working.

I am here to answer your questions. With 25+ years experience representing injured workers (including 6+ years in the 1990’s representing insurance companies and employers) I know how the Georgia work injury system works. I also know which doctors accept workers’ compensation patients and which doctors have consistently produced excellent results for my clients.

Please feel free to call me at 770-351-0801. Everything we discuss is completely confidential and there is no charge to talk to me. I hope to hear from you soon.

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Jodi Ginsberg

Attorney Jodi Ginsberg represents employees who are injured on the job and who need medical care and missed wage benefits available under Georgia's workers' compensation laws.

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