Any job that requires you to spend time on your feet means you must be able to stand pain free. Otherwise, it’ll be an impediment (pun intended) to your work. But what happens if your job ends up putting you in perambulatory pain? Well, when walking becomes a workers’ comp issue, it can be tricky to get the support you need. This is what happened to a reader of ours from Tennessee who recently wrote in asking the following question about heel spurs:
“I developed heel spurs during the last five years. My doctor says I got them from going up and down the stairs constantly at work. My job says I can’t file a workers’ comp claim for this, even though my doctor says it’s work-related. What should I do next? I need treatment but my job denied me workers’ comp.”
There are several reasons an employer might deny this claim, and a few options to explore to get help.
What Are Heel Spurs Exactly?
Heel spurs are calcifications that cause a bony protrusion on the underside of the heel. These excess calcium deposits usually build up over the course of many months — or years. They are frequently seen in athletes who do a lot of jumping or running. But they could show up in an employee who has to spend a lot of time on their feet.
However, it’s important to know that according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, most heel spurs don’t hurt. They generally don’t cause issues unless they’re pressing on a nerve, tendon, or other bodily structure.
If someone has a heel spur and they’re experiencing a great deal of pain, it’s most likely due to inflammation. It’s more likely that someone with heel pain is suffering from plantar fasciitis, which is irritation of a foot ligament. While a heel spur may make the pain worse, the spur itself is likely not painful.
Why Might a Workers’ Comp Claim for Heel Spurs Be Declined?
One reason employers may deny claims for heel spurs is that by themselves, they do not cause pain. So, a classification of heel spurs may not be enough to be considered an issue. That is, unless there is an additional diagnosis of a concurrent condition like plantar fasciitis.
And even then, it can be difficult to prove that this “injury” is purely work-related. While standing a lot may worsen painful foot/heel conditions, work may not be the only reason for it.
Other things in addition to prolonged standing that may increase the chances of developing heel spurs or heel pain include:
- Excess weight and obesity
- Poorly fitting shoes/high heels (especially those without arch support)
- Flat feet or high arches
- Tight calf muscles
- Increasing age (more common in people aged 40-60)
Because there are many factors that may contribute to heel spurs, proving it was purely work-related is more difficult.
What Should I Do If My Employer Denies My Workers’ Comp Claim for Heel Spurs?
First and foremost, the most important thing with any injury that causes sharp pain is to try to get relief.
If your employer initially denies your workers’ comp claim, at least try to get coverage through your personal health insurance. You don’t want to be limping, so hopefully your employer-backed health plan will provide assistance without excessive financial strain. In the interim, physical therapy, regular icing and adding gel heel cups to shoes can also really help.
If you don’t have health insurance, then it’s a different story. In that situation you should absolutely consult with a workers’ comp attorney to evaluate the merits of your claim. And you may wish to do this anyway — even if you have personal health insurance.
Most workers’ comp lawyers work on a contingency basis, so it won’t cost you anything up front. They will only receive a percentage if you get a positive settlement. As a result, they’ll be honest if they think you have a claim or not. Because they’re not going to take on a case they don’t think they can win.
Why Else Might I Not Receive Workers’ Comp Benefits?
One other very important thing to keep in mind is that workers’ compensation laws vary widely by state.
Circling back to our reader’s question, workers’ comp law in Tennessee requires employees to only see certain doctors. Essentially, an employee must go to a doctor that their employer selects, or they won’t pay for their treatment. So, it’s entirely possible that this reader did not receive benefits because they went to their own doctor. Without knowing the specifics of their situation it’s hard to determine for sure. But it’s one possibility.
Unique caveats like this are yet another reason consulting with a skilled workers’ comp attorney is in your best interest. Unless you are a federal employee, there is wide variability in the laws of each state concerning workers’ comp.
You don’t want to miss out on benefits you are due just because you don’t know all the rules! Stand up for what you deserve!
Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes to Cosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit: www.KDNeumann.com, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter/X @KimberlyNeumann.