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Posture and Workers’ Compensation

Poor posture is a common source of back pain, neck pain, and spine pain. Posture generally focuses on the head, shoulders, and back – whether we’re standing, sitting, or lying down. Poor posture is a type of musculoskeletal disorder according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Poor posture can affect the muscles and joints – causing arthritis causing chronic pain and the inability to use certain body parts. Poor posture may also affect the lungs and other organs causing breathing difficulties and other disorders. While pain from poor posture in and of itself is not compensable under the workers compensation system, poor posture sometimes occurs as a result of muscle spasms or other conditions, which, in turn, are the result of a traumatic injury or accident at work. Traumatic injuries or accidents suffered on the job may be compensable. In that case, the resulting poor posture would be treated as a part of the compensable traumatic injury.

What is good posture?

According to the American Posture Institute, good posture “involves training your body to stand, walk, sit and lie in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement or weight-bearing activities.” Good posture involves training the body to “move and function” so that the least amount of strain is required.

Keeping good posture requires muscle strength, muscle flexibility, good joint motion in the spine among other body parts, and “efficient postural muscles that are balanced on both sides of the spine.” Even if you typically have good posture, a traumatic injury can impact your body in such a way so as to negatively impact your posture. Good posture involves maintaining, according to the American Posture Institute:

  • An inward or forward curve at the neck (cervical curve). In a car accident, muscle spasm can pull this curve almost completely out of the neck resulting in a straight, or “beanpole,” appearance of the neck, which will often show up on x-ray and is termed a loss of cervical lordosis.
  • An outward or backward curve at the upper back (thoracic curve)
  • An inward curve at the lower back (lumbar curve)

Maintaining good posture means focusing on:

  • The spine. This part of the anatomy includes:
    • The vertebrae. 33 stacked bones that form the spinal canal. Most of these vertebrae allow for a range of motion. The sacrum and the coccyx don’t move.
      • The neck (cervical region). The top part of your spine has seven vertebrae (C1 to C7) that “allow you to turn, tilt and nod your head.” “The cervical spine makes an inward C-shape called a lordotic curve.”
      • The middle back (thoracic region). This region includes 12 vertebrae (T1 to T12) that attach to your ribs. This part of your spine “bends out slightly to make a backward C-shape called the kyphotic curve.”
      • The lower back (lumbar region). This region includes five vertebrae (L1 to L5) that support the upper parts of the spine. The region also attaches to your pelvis. The lumbar region helps workers lift and carry items. Many workers who have bad posture or who experience a traumatic injury to the spine develop problems with the lumbar region of their spine. “The lumbar spine bends inward to create a C-shaped lordotic curve.”
      • The sacrum. This part of the spine connects to the hip. There are five sacral vertebrae (S1 to S5). “The sacrum and hip bones form a ring called the pelvic girdle.”
      • Tailbone (coccyx).. The coccyx includes four fused vertebrae at the bottom of the spine.
    • The facet joints. These joints have cartilage (a connective tissue) that allows the vertebrae to slide against each other. Functioning facet joints allows for stability and flexibility. Poorly functioning facet joints can cause arthritis, back pain, and neck pain.
    • Intervertebral disks: These parts of the spine act as shock absorbers. “Each disk has a soft, gel-like center (the nucleus pulposus) surrounded by a flexible outer ring (the annulus). Intervertebral disks are under constant pressure. A herniated disk can tear, allowing some of the nucleus’ gel substance to leak out.” If a worker’s disk is herniated, he/she will likely experience a great amount of pain. Even worse, the disc material can put pressure on the spinal cord or other nerves branching out into the arms and legs, causing a condition known as radiculopathy. In the legs, this radiculopathy is also known as sciatica or lumbar radiculopathy. In the neck and arms, cervical radiculopathy.
    • The spinal cord and nerves. The spinal cord consists of a nerve column that travels through the spinal canal. The cord runs from the skull to the lower back. It includes 31 pairs of nerves. These nerves carry and send messages between your brain and muscles.
    • Soft tissues. Ligaments hold the spine in place. Muscles support your back and help with movement. Tendons connect the muscles to the bones.
  • Muscles. If the leg, hip, and abdominal muscles are weak and inflexible, they can’t support the natural curves of the spine.
  • Joints. “Hip, knee, and ankle joints balance your spine’s natural curves when you move, making it possible to maintain good posture in any position.”

Good posture doesn’t just help the spine, muscles, and joints function well. Good posture also helps the internal organs function well.

The American Posture Institute states that: “When the body is in a slouched forward position (head and shoulders rolled forward), our rib cage is actually pushing down on our internal organs.” The consequences of this type of poor posture include neck pain, headaches, and muscular soreness – and decreased respiratory capacity, migraines, and problems with digestion. More severe consequences may include arthritic joints, degeneration of the spine, and sore muscles.

What are the benefits of good posture?

Good standing posture generally means that when a worker faces someone, the 33 vertebrae of the spine are stacked directly on top of each other. Good sitting posture means the shoulders are open. The head and neck are perpendicular to the floor. The hands and wrists should be placed on an object to reduce further strain.

Some of the many benefits of proper posture include:

  • When the bones and joints are aligned properly, the muscles have less stress.
  • Less wear and tear on the joint surfaces – reducing the risk of arthritis.
  • Reduced ligament stress.
  • Better breathing and circulation.
  • Prevents the spine from being in an improper position which can cause scoliosis, among other problems.
  • Helps with energy because the muscles don’t become as tired.
  • Improves the function of the organs.
  • Helps prevent neck pain, back pain, and muscular pain.
  • Generally, the benefits became health risks when a worker’s posture is poor.

What are the treatments for poor posture injuries?

The treatments vary depending on the seriousness of your condition, the type of disorder (such as a herniated disc), and the location of the disorder. Workers who cannot work due to injuries that may result in poor posture generally work with orthopedists, pain management doctors, chiropractors, and physical therapists.

One of the main contributing factors to poor posture is working with computers. A failure to properly align the computer with the worker can easily cause a posture injury.

At Joe Miller Law Ltd., our Virginia and North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney has been fighting for injured and ill employees for 30 years. We explain that fault is not an issue in workers’ compensation claims. As explained previously, although poor posture, in and of itself, is generally not considered a compensable injury or condition in workers compensation, it can and often does occur as a result of a traumatic injury, particularly if that injury is to the spine. Accordingly, if you are experiencing worsening posture and pain due to a traumatic injury suffered on the job, you have a right to seek payment for your medical bills and temporary total disability at the rate of 2/3rds of your average weekly wage, during the time your doctor says you are unable to work due to your injuries, for potentially up to 500 weeks. In some cases, you may even be entitled to permanent partial disability for injury to a specific body part. To discuss your right to compensation, call lawyer Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295 or fill out my online contact form to make an appointment.

Our firm also uses remote services for clients who prefer to speak with us from home of tell us about their injuries after hours. To use our remote services, please look at our New Electronic Case Review.

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If you are looking at this site, you or a loved one has probably been hurt. If that's true, you've come to the right place. Helping people who have been hurt is what we do. In fact, it is all we do. Joe Miller Law is a law firm concentrating exclusively on representing people who are injured by the carelessness of others or those hurt on the job. We provide the highest quality legal services to people who have been seriously injured. We practice Personal Injury law and Workmens' Compensation law in both Virginia and North Carolina.