Herniated disc and work stoppage: Everything you need to know (occupational illness?)

physical work

You have been diagnosed with herniated disc and your symptoms limit you on a daily basis. In particular, they prevent you from doing your work, whether physical or sedentary. Your doctor may even have prescribed sick leave for you.

Can we work with a herniated disc? How long does a stop last on average? If the symptoms persist, can the herniated disc be considered an occupational disease? What is the compensation in this case? We talk about it in this complete article.

Herniated disc and work, the 5 points to remember

  • A herniated disc occurs when the soft inner part of a intervertebral disc escapes through a tear in the outer layer, causing pain and other symptoms.
  • The repercussions of a herniated disc from a professional point of view vary enormously depending on the individual. Some can work without incapacity, while others are no longer able to practice their profession.
  • A herniated disc entitles you to sick leave when the doctor judges that professional activities cannot be carried out. This varies from 5 days to several weeks.
  • Herniated disc is recognized as an occupational disease under certain conditions. The latter are specified in tables 98 and 99 of the general regime relating to chronic conditions of the spine.
  • If the herniated disc is recognized as an occupational disease, the worker may be eligible for Social Security benefits.List item

Herniated disc, short recall

What is a herniated disc, and what are its causes and symptoms? (short reminder)

La herniated disc is the most common pathology among workers under 45 years of age.

This is a condition that occurs when the soft inner part of a disc escapes through a tear in the outer layer. This can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the affected area.

The herniated discs are most often caused by degenerative changes that occur with aging, but they can also be caused by trauma or inappropriate postures (such as at work).

Symptoms of a herniated disc vary depending on the location of the disc and the amount of tissue involved. However, the most common symptoms are:

  • pain,
  • numbness,
  • tingling
  • And muscle weakness of the affected area.

In severe cases, herniated discs can also lead to problems with bowel or bladder control. We then talk about cauda equina syndrome.

Read: Our complete guide to herniated discs


Herniated disc and work, what consequences?

The repercussions of a herniated disc vary greatly depending on the individual. Some people feel no particular incapacity, while others can no longer practice their profession due to incapacitating pain.

Can you work with a herniated disc?

Herniated disc does not necessarily mean inability to work.

Indeed, despite the presence of disc herniation at themedical imaging, some people experience no symptoms, or only slight discomfort. This is notably due to their body's ability to adapt, and a higher pain tolerance threshold.

For these people, it is possible to continue their professional activity without limitations, making sure to monitor the symptoms and following the progression of the herniated disc over time.

It will also be necessary to think about preventing acute episodes and worsening of the herniated disc, in particular with the help of adapted strengthening exercises and optimal postural hygiene.

Work limitations caused by herniated discs

Although there are asymptomatic cases of disc herniation, the majority of people with disc pathologies suffer from more or less severe symptoms.

Indeed, several professional tasks can become unachievable ou strongly painful, especially :

  • Prolonged standing;
  • Sitting in front of a computer;
  • Squat, climb or crawl;
  • Lifting heavy loads;
  • Twisting movements of the spine;
  • Anterior flexion (se lean forward);
  • Trunk extension;
  • The use of vibrating machines (low frequency)…

Of course, all these limitations can significantly interfere with work, or even prevent any professional activity that requires physical effort.

Note: It is entirely possible to work with a herniated disc if the physical demands of your job do not aggravate your symptoms. If, on the other hand, the pain worsens after a day of work, your doctor will put in place suitable solutions.

What to do when a herniated disc prevents you from working?

When you consult for a herniated disc that prevents you from doing your job, your doctor will have to make a decision to optimize your recovery.

How long does a work stoppage last following a herniated disc?

Whether it occurs in the workplace or not, a herniated disc entitles you to a work stoppage when the doctor judges that the professional activities cannot be carried out.

The duration of the latter depends on many factors, including:

  • la severity of symptoms
  • la severity of disc injury
  • la nature of work performed
  • la general health (age, general physical condition, etc.)
  • la response to medical treatment
  • etc.

In all cases, this duration must be set by a doctor after a accurate clinical assessment (sometimes including medical imaging examinations).

In general, la duration of a work stoppage for herniated disc is a few days (5 days most often) a few weeks away.

At the end of this period, a clinical re-evaluation is carried out by the doctor to extend the shutdown if necessary or allow a return to work in the event of recovery deemed sufficient.

Adaptations at work

When you return, you may need to make some changes to prevent your condition from getting worse.

If your pain worsens after lifting heavy loads, you will need to reduce or avoid physical handling work until your condition heals (like the construction sector).

In addition, functional limitations could be imposed by your doctor (for example, not the right to lift loads of more than 5 kg, or even any gesture requiring mechanical vibrations).

If it is prolonged sitting that aggravates your symptoms, you will need to either limit sitting posture or improve the ergonomics of your workstation to minimize pain.

If traveling by car is complicated and the job allows it, another alternative is teleworking.

Herniated disc, occupational disease?

La herniated disc is recognized as an occupational disease under certain conditions. These are specified in the tables 97 and 98 of the general regime relating to chronic conditions of the lumbar spine:

  • The herniated disc must be associated with a sciatica ou cruralgia, and must last at least 3 months to be considered chronic.
  • La exposure time must be at least 5 years (period during which the patient performs work likely to cause a herniated disc).
  • Le pick-up time is fixed at 6 months, that is to say that the herniated disc must be observed within 6 months of the cessation of exposure.
  • The diagnosis must be made by a doctor after carrying out an imaging examination (MRI or scanner) highlighting the lumbar disc herniation.
  • The sciatica must come from a herniated L4-L5 or L5-S1 disc, with root damage of concordant topography.
  • If it is cruralgia, the radiculalgia crural must come from a L2-L3 or L3-L4 or L4-L5 disc herniation, with root involvement of concordant topography.
  • The work concerned must usually expose the body to low and medium frequency vibrations. For example, the use of all-terrain vehicles (loaders, diggers, etc.), industrial machinery or equipment (overhead cranes, construction cranes, etc.), or even the driving of road tractors or monoblock trucks.

The steps to follow to have your herniated disc recognized as an occupational disease

  • First, consult your doctor. You need to have a precise medical diagnosis and a work stoppage related to this pathology.
  • You then have 15 days to declare your sick leave to the Caisse Primaire d'Assurance Maladie (CPAM). They will then send you a form to fill out.
  • The CPAM will decide within three or even six months if your pathology is not listed in the table of occupational diseases (cervical disc herniation).
  • If the herniated disc is recognized as a occupational disease, the worker may be eligible for Social Security benefits. These benefits can cover medical expenses, lost income related to the inability to work, and other expenses related to the condition.



Resources bibliographies and sites that were used for the writing of this article



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