Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting more than 30 million American adults. Though there are more than 100 types of arthritis, osteoarthritis is responsible for between one third and more than one-half of all cases.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage between the joints begins to break down. Cartilage is a flexible, connective tissue that allows joints — your knees, hips and ankles — to move smoothly and without pain. When that cartilage wears away, bones begin to rub together, causing pain. Sometimes, the discomfort can be so great that you are unable to continue at your job.
One of the most common causes of osteoarthritis is repetitive stress on a joint, such as caused by a work task. If you have suffered osteoarthritis due to work-related injuries or tasks, Paul Giannetti, Attorney at Law, can help you understand your rights for a workers’ compensation claim and assist you with filing the claim.
What Causes Osteoarthritis?
The causes of osteoarthritis are separated into four main categories:
- Injury and overuse — As mentioned above, the repetitive stress caused by bending, lifting and even standing too long can wear out the cartilage between joints throughout the body. The lingering effects of surgeries and fractures may also lead to osteoarthritis in a nearby joint.
- Obesity — Extra weight puts additional stress on joints, leading cartilage to break down more rapidly. Researchers believe there also may be metabolic effects of obesity that increase the chances of osteoarthritis.
- Genetics — In rare cases, people cannot properly manufacture collagen. Collagen is the protein that produces the cartilage between bones that allows the bones to slide and move smoothly. Musculoskeletal defects, causing bone misalignment, may also lead to osteoarthritis.
- Other factors — Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, when the body’s immune system targets joints, or acromegaly, resulting in overproduction of growth hormone, are thought to be indicators of osteoarthritis. Women are more likely than men to develop the condition.
How Can I Treat Osteoarthritis?
Because osteoarthritis is a progressive disease, it cannot be reversed. Over-the-counter pain medication is the first step toward treating the discomfort. Your doctor may prescribe a stronger medication, or inject hyaluronic acid into a joint. Occupational therapy, physical therapy and assistive devices such as canes or crutches may also provide relief.
A final option can be surgery. This can mean a full joint replacement, or if that’s not feasible, a joint fusion.
What Are My Workers’ Compensation Rights?
If you suffer from joint pain and discomfort that you believe is related to your work, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board administers the program.
Visit a doctor to document your injury as soon as possible, and notify your supervisor regarding the details of your injury. Osteoarthritis is typically not brought on by sudden injury, but you have up to two years from when you knew, or should have known, that work-related activities led to your condition, to file a claim.
Weekly cash benefits, medical benefits and a schedule loss of use award all may be available to you. Through June 30, 2019, the maximum weekly benefit is $904.74. The state of New York adjusts the amount each year. The cash benefit to which you are entitled may vary, and is based on a formula taking into account your weekly salary and the percentage you are considered disabled.
Medical benefits include “necessary medical care directly related to the original injury or illness and the recovery” from disability.
The schedule loss of use award is a cash payment beyond weekly or medical benefits, given if you have a permanent functional impairment of certain specific body parts. In the case of a joint injury like osteoarthritis, injuries to the knees, ankles, wrists and fingers all may fall under schedule loss of use.
How to Protect Your Workers’ Compensation Rights
Workers’ compensation claims are not straightforward. In the case of a slow-developing ailment such as osteoarthritis, it’s especially important to have experienced help in your corner.
Paul Giamatti, Attorney at Law, can help you navigate the specific expectations related to documenting your injury, receiving medical care and dealing with your employer’s insurance company — which is typically not looking out for your best interest. Contact us today for a free consultation.