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Medical Treatment Guidelines May Help for Lower Back Injuries

Work-related injuries that qualify for workers’ compensation can be anything from serious brain trauma to carpal tunnel syndrome to stress or depression. Some of the most common injuries that are eligible for workers’ compensation are lower-back injuries. A new study shows that medical treatment guidelines may reduce the amount of services needed for lower back injuries.

The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute of Cambridge, Mass., studied whether medical treatment guidelines are beneficial in relation to workers’ compensation injuries. Because workers’ compensation systems expend a huge amount of money on treatment of work-related injuries, anything that may reduce those costs would be welcome. The study looked at medical treatment guidelines that were introduced in the Texas workers’ compensation system in 2007 and whether they reduced the amount of treatment for upper back, lower back, neck, knee and shoulder injuries. The study produced mixed results.

Overall, implementing medical treatment guidelines reduced the number of surgeries for all types of injuries in the study. For example, surgeries for shoulder injuries were reduced 9.3 percent. In addition, treatments such as chiropractic manipulation, radiology, physical medicine and injections were also reduced for lower back injuries.

The amount of medical services, however, increased under the medical treatment guidelines. Physical medicine treatments for neck and upper back injuries increased 9.7 percent, while workers with knee injuries received a 3.1 percent increase in physical medicine treatments.  There was also a slight increase in the number of workers who required more than 12 physical medicine visits within nine months following their injury. Furthermore, workers with shoulder injuries were 10.6 percent more likely to receive a CT scan or MRI.

The benefits of medical treatment guidelines remain uncertain. The report itself notes: “A consequence of these findings might be that it is too simplistic to expect that a set of treatment guidelines has a common effect across all injury group. Rather, it is more likely that, for a given set of treatment guidelines, the impact on the medical and lost time outcomes will be different across injury groups.”

Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Workers in Massachusetts who have been injured on the job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits that include medical treatment for their injuries. Ideally, the employer and the workers’ compensation carrier will agree to the treatment needed for an injury; however, that does not always happen. Sometimes, an employer or insurance carrier denies a claim by and employee. In other cases, the initial claim is approved but the course of treatment becomes an issue down the road. In both situations, a worker has the right to appeal the denial of the claim or the denial of services.

If you have had a Massachusetts workers’ compensation claim denied, or feel that the treatment you need is not being approved by the workers’ compensation system, you should consult with an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney. The Massachusetts workplace injury lawyers at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C., are here to help. If you would like to know what legal options you have for a work-related injury, we can be reached by calling 800-367-0871 or by using our online contact form.