Workers can suffer nerve damage due to an accident, any type of trauma, repetitive stress, and other causes. Some nerve damage can cause a partial or complete inability to use or move the part of the body that includes that nerve. Nerve damage can also limit a worker’s strength. Nerves that tear, bruise, or stretch may result in permanent injuries. Nerve damage can also prevent the brain from receiving the information it needs. Some, but not all, nerves may be repairable with surgery, physical and other types of therapy, and other treatments.
What is the nervous system?
According to the Mayo Clinic, the nervous system is a “wide-reaching network” of nerve cells. These cells are called neurons. Synapses are connected to the nerves and spread across the body. The nervous system helps people transmit and receive the sensory information that people need to see, hear, touch, smell, taste, and be aware of pain. The circulation of blood could be affected.
Nerves are fragile. When damaged, the nervous system needs a lot of help to heal – if the nerves and synapses heal at all. Workers who suffer nervous system injuries are likely to experience a great amount of pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness.
The two types of nervous systems are:
- The central nervous system (CNS). The CNS consists of your brain and your spinal cord.
- The peripheral nervous system (PNS). The PNS “connects the central nervous system with your internal organs, muscles and sensory tissues.” The PNS helps control a worker’s heart, temperature, muscles, lungs, and other life-critical involuntary functions.
Injuries to the central nervous system
CNS injuries may be due to car accidents, explosions, falls, strokes, gunshots, lack of oxygen, and ruptured brain aneurysm. The Mayo Clinic classifies CNS injuries as traumatic brain injuries or traumatic spinal cord injuries.
When a central nervous system injury occurs at work, the nerves generally do not regenerate. The nerves may be able to adjust with a lot of medical help. Younger workers with a CNS injury are much more likely to adjust than older workers.
Getting immediate help for a CNS injury is critical. Neurosurgeons can’t repair the initial brain or spinal injury but they may be able to prevent “secondary damage,” which helps prevent the initial damage from moving to other areas.
Injuries to the peripheral nervous system
Some of the common workplace causes of peripheral nervous system injuries include:
- Any type of accident including car and truck accidents, and falls.
- Repetitive stress injuries, which any worker can suffer, from a clerical worker to a construction worker. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common repetitive stress injury that causes nerve damage.
- Workers may need surgery for many different types of injuries. Surgeries can result in nerve damage.
Peripheral nerve injuries are classified by their severity. Neuropraxia is a mild and common type of nerve injury that usually results in a full recovery. The two severest types of nerve injuries are:
- This PNS injury is a partial tear of the nerve. “The outer nerve sheath is intact, but the neurons within are damaged.” The damaged nerve cells can generally regenerate at a very slow rate. The recovery is typically incomplete.
- This PNS injury is a complete injury. The nerve sheath and underlying neurons are severed. Surgery is almost always required. The nerve ends may be capable of repair, though grafts or surgery are the most likely treatments.
Different nerves enable workers to perform different tasks. Workers who cannot perform these tasks may be eligible for temporary disability benefits while they seek medical care and permanent disability benefits if the nerve injury is permanent and prevents the worker from doing his/her job.
Critical nerves for work include:
- Motor nerves. These are the nerves that workers can control. They manage the muscles. Workers use motor nerves to walk, talk, and hold objects. The muscles may be weak, twitch uncontrollably, and cause painful cramps.
- Sensory nerves. These nerves help with all the senses and also help workers know when they’re in pain. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, difficulty sensing pain, problems with balance, and difficulty with buttons.
- Autonomic nerves. These nerves control an employee’s organs, which help workers breathe and eat, and regulate the heart and gland functions. Symptoms may include blood pressure changes, excessive sweating, GI problems, and the inability to tolerate heat.
Most nerve injuries affect all three of the above types of nerves to varying degrees.
How are nerve injuries diagnosed and treated?
Your physicians will conduct an oral exam, a physical exam, and a neurological exam. Diagnostic tests include:
- Electromyography (EMG)
- Nerve conduction study
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Uncut injuries are more likely to heal than cut nerves. As discussed, surgery may help limit the damage, but some nerve injuries cause permanent damage and prevent workers from working in the same type of job.
What workers’ compensation benefits can I receive for nerve damage?
In Tennessee, workers can receive workers’ compensation benefits if their injuries are due to a workplace accident or an occupational illness.
These benefits should pay all of your medical expenses, including surgeries, physical therapy, medications, and any other type of medical care for as long as you need medical help.
- Temporary disability benefits pay a percentage of your wages (about 2/3) while you are working to maximize your health.
- Permanent disability benefits generally pay the same percentage of your wages based on the severity of your nerve injuries and other qualifying factors for a set amount of time, determined by whether or not you can ever return to work. Workers who can work with restrictions may be entitled to partial disability benefits.
At Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law, our workers’ compensation lawyers work with your doctors and our network of doctors when workers suffer serious injuries including nerve damage. We’re skilled at showing your injuries are work-related, the type of nerve injury you have, and how your nerve injuries affect your ability to work. We’ll fight for all your work injury benefits. Call us or use our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We represent workers in Chattanooga and Cleveland, TN, North Georgia, and the surrounding areas.