Also known as a slipped or ruptured disc, a herniated disc occurs when the cartilage between the spine's vertebrae tears, puts pressure on the spinal nerves and causes pain and/or numbness.

While anyone can sustain a herniated disc due to repetitive strain or a traumatic event, railroad workers have a particularly high risk of experiencing this type of back injury due to the inherent dangers of their occupation.

Lifting heavy objects, falling or enduring a collision are among some of factors that endanger railroad workers and increase the likelihood that they will experience severe lower back injuries, such as herniated disc.

Given the risks associated with railroad employment, these workers are protected by a distinct law, known as the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), should they be injured on-the-job. FELA provides injured railroad employees with larger compensation awards than traditional workers' compensation, as long as they can prove another's negligence contributed to their injuries.

Herniated Disc Symptoms

The most common type of herniated disc injuries are L4 and L5 injuries (The terms “L4” and “L5” refer to the site of the injury, which is in the lower spinal region known as the lumbar spine).

Although some people may have a herniated disc without experiencing any symptoms, when symptoms are present, they may include:

  • sciatica, ache and pain that radiates from the buttocks down the side or back of the leg
  • pain affecting the lower back, neck, shoulder or arm
  • lower back or leg pain that intensifies when sitting, coughing or sneezing

Should railroad workers experience such pain for over a week, it's crucial that they meet with their doctor for a thorough exam and a proper diagnosis.

Diagnosing a Ruptured Disc

To confirm or rule out the presence of a ruptured disc, doctors will perform the following diagnostic tests:

  • leg-raising tests
  • reflex and muscle strength tests
  • MRIs
  • CT scans
  • myelograms (an x-ray preceded by an injection of contrast dye to highlight areas of possible spinal damage)

Risk Factors for Slipped Disc Injuries

Railroad workers will be more likely to sustain a herniated disc if they:

  • are over the age of 35
  • are tall (over 5'11”) or overweight
  • smoke (Smoking decreases blood oxygen levels and, therefore, depletes the body's tissues of essential nutrients)

Treatment for a Lumbar Disc Injury

In most cases, lumbar disc injuries will respond to conservative, non-invasive treatments, including:

  • modified activity (especially avoiding positions or endeavors that cause pain)
  • physical therapy
  • application of heat and/or cold to the injury site (This reduces pain and swelling)
  • pain medications

Typically, such herniated disc treatments need to be carried on for at least a few months before progress is made.

When ruptured discs don't respond to non-invasive treatments, however, surgery to relieve pressure on the affected nerve may be necessary.

Recovering Compensation for Your Herniated Disc Injury

While it is essential that injured railroad workers get emergency medical care and follow through with all prescribed treatments for the best chances of recovery, it is also crucial that injured railroad employees meet with a FELA lawyer to find out if they qualify to recover compensation for their injuries and losses.

At Gordon & Elias, L.L.P., we have extensive experience in representing injured railroad workers and their families. We offer free initial consultations in which we will discuss the details of your unique situation and help you determine the best way to pursue your claim.

At Gordon & Elias, L.L.P., we have helped injured railroad workers and their families recover compensation for the damages incurred, including:

  • outstanding hospital bills
  • ongoing future treatments
  • lost wages
  • permanent disabilities
  • future costs of living (should a permanent disability prevent them from earning a living)
  • emotional pain and suffering

Have you or a loved one suffered a herniated disc after working in the railroad industry? If so, contact Gordon & Elias, L.L.P. today to talk to an experienced FELA attorney who will evaluate your case and help you recover the compensation you deserve.