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Surgery and opioids restricted for worker back injury in Ohio


It is important for workers in Ohio to keep an eye on various regulations used by the state when it comes to workers' compensation. For example, when there is an ongoing concern about how certain treatments are affecting workers, then there is a chance that rules will be put in place to regulate those treatments. One that is bound to be of interest to workers who suffer a back injury is the guideline from the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation restricting surgery and painkillers until it is the final resort.

Workers who have a back injury from their work will be limited to rest, receiving physical therapy and treatment from a chiropractor before they can get more advanced procedures, such as spinal fusion surgery and receiving prescription painkillers. The goal behind this is to reduce the number of workers who are receiving too many opioid painkillers and are becoming addicted. This new rule was implemented on Jan. 1.

Since Ohio has had a significant issue with people becoming addicted to opioids, this is a tactic to reduce that from happening. Workers who have certain back issues like severe chronic pain in the lower back and degenerative disc disease often need fusion surgery. Workers require this procedure an estimated 600 times annually. The BWC requires the workers to take part in a minimum of 60 days of alternative treatment and try and avoid opioid painkillers before surgery is allowed. The worst back injuries are notable exceptions.

Medical professionals do not believe this is sufficiently specific because different patients need different treatments. The BWC states that workers are not always better off after surgery. In some cases, they are worse. It references studies showing that rehabilitation and other treatments have shown to be effective in lieu of surgery in a large proportion of patients.

For workers who have a back injury and are entitled to workers' compensation benefits, their treatment should be directly related to their injury and helping them recover from it and possibly get back to work. This new law is controversial in that it is wide-ranging and lumps most workers with a back injury together and prevents them from getting surgery immediately even if it is the best solution to the problem. When there is a problem with any aspect of workers' compensation, such as the medical assessment as to whether surgery is needed or not, having legal assistance is crucial to try and deal with the matter in a way that helps the worker.

Source: cleveland.com, "Ohio imposes strict rule on workers' back surgery, opioids," Jan. 10, 2018

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