Bulging discs and herniated discs are not interchangeable terms. Both involve the rubbery “shock-absorbers” between the vertebrae, they can have similar symptoms and there is even some inconsistency among the medical community in how the terms are used. But they are different conditions, and that difference can be important in relation to a possible work injury.
Bulging vs. Herniated Discs
A bulging disc is typically degenerative. Discs lose moisture and suppleness over time. sometimes causing them to flatten out beyond the edges of the vertebrae. Symptoms are progressive and include pain, not only in the back but in areas affected by nerves around the disc, including legs and arms. This condition can cause discomfort and pain in the area of the disc, but it usually isn’t debilitating.
Herniated discs, on the other hand, are more likely to result from sudden trauma such as a work injury from bending, twisting or lifting. Due to the trauma, a tear occurs in the outer band of the disc and allows the softer interior material to push out of the disc and into the spinal column, pressuring nerves. The condition can come on more suddenly and be more painful than a bulging disc, though some herniated discs cause no pain.
If you do feel symptoms from a herniated disc, they’ll be not unlike those of a bulging disc. The soft, jelly-like material that protrudes from the disc can pressure nerves, leading to sciatica down the leg or weakness and numbness in the arm, depending on where the disc is herniated. Herniated discs are most common in the lower spine (lumbar), though they can occur anywhere along the spine.
Because of how they occur, herniated discs — also sometimes called slipped discs — are more likely traced to a work injury than bulging discs.
How are Herniated Discs Diagnosed and Treated?
A doctor will do a thorough examination, taking into account your work and medical history. For a definitive answer, however, a diagnostic test such as an MRI will be needed.
If the diagnosis is a herniated disc, treatments can vary by the location of the injured disc and the individual. Some may do well with a combination of medication and physical therapy. Surgery is an option, but typically not until a non-surgical regimen is followed for many weeks.
What if My Herniated Disc was Caused by Work?
If you are diagnosed with a herniated disc and feel like it was caused by an injury on the job, you may be eligible for worker’s compensation benefits from the state of New York. But you need to take the proper steps to protect your rights.
It’s important to notify your supervisor at the moment you think you are injured, and not when you have a diagnosis. You have 30 days to notify your employer about a work injury before you risk losing benefits.
At the same time, contact Paul Giannetti Attorney at Law for a free consultation about your situation. Then you can go about visiting your medical provider for an examination. Paul can help you file a claim with the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board and explain the benefits available to you.
What Benefits are Available to Me?
In the case of a herniated disc resulting from an injury, the New York State Workers’ Compensation program has two primary types of benefits available.
Cash benefits: If you are unable to work due to your injury for at least seven days, you may be eligible for cash benefits. A formula takes into account your weekly wage or salary, the date of your incident and the amount you are disabled to determine your weekly benefit.
Medical benefits: Eligible workers can earn payment for necessary medical care related to treatment, of and recovery from, a work-related injury. There are many details specific to how this treatment is obtained and documented, however, and this is where it is especially important to have an experienced workers’ compensation attorney on your side.
Call my Albany law office today at 518-243-8011, or fill out the contact form on our website, to request a free consultation and understand your rights related to a work-related back injury.