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Will you have to wait out a work-related back injury?

Back injuries are one of the most common work-related injuries. People who work in physical jobs--for example in warehouses or fulfillment plants where they may be required to bend, lift and twist on a regular basis-- are at a particular risk for strains, sprains, slipped discs and other conditions that can cause low back pain and keep a worker sidelined. When that happens, many workers depend on workers' compensation to pay for their medical bills and lost wages. But new guidelines from the American College of Physicians state that low back pain should be treated with rest instead of medication or surgery. This could change the way workers' comp pays for these injuries. 

According to the new guidelines, medications, including over-the-counter painkillers, should no longer be the first-line treatment for low back pain. Instead, it suggests patients try a combination of patience and noninvasive therapies like massage or yoga. 

The change comes in response to recognition in the medical community that back pain generally resolves on its own, and in most cases more intensive treatments are not required. The guidelines, in part, also represent an attempt to, where appropriate, steer doctors away from prescribing opioid prescription medications that have the potential to become addictive. 

If doctors no longer order scans or prescribe painkiller medications as a matter of course, this could save insurers (and patients) money upfront, and help prevent potential opioid addiction. However, simply waiting for back pain to subside could mean that workers miss more work while waiting for pain to improve. It also poses the question of whether workers' compensation would pay for interventions like yoga, massage, acupuncture or other noninvasive treatments.

If you've been injured at work, workers' compensation is supposed to be there for you to help pay for medical costs and lost wages. The process of applying for benefits and/or dealing with rejections and appeals isn't always easy.  If you've been injured on the job and now have lower back pain, it can be valuable to seek the counsel of one of our experienced workers' compensation attorneys at Cohen, Feeley, Altemose & Rambo, to help you secure access to the benefits you deserve.

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