For the purposes of workers’ compensation, arthritis and degenerative disc disease usually fall into the category of what’s called a “pre-existing injury.” In other words, your job didn’t cause these conditions. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t count as work injuries.

 The law in Illinois says that if your job aggravates a pre-existing condition, it is considered a work injury and you are entitled to benefits. These benefits include payment of medical bills (100%), payment for a portion of lost wages (usually 2/3 of what you were earning before your injury made it impossible to work), and other benefits.

 Arthritis is a broad term that is often used to describe joint conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, gout, lupus, etc. Symptoms commonly include stiffness, swelling, pain and redness around the joints, which include wrists, hands, knees, hips, etc. These symptoms can affect other parts of the body, as well. 

Degenerative disc disease is common as you age, as the discs in the spine age and lose the ability to absorb shock. It happens to everyone. However, a specific injury can make the degeneration worse or accelerate the condition, causing significant pain. A back or neck injury often sets this off. Slipped, ruptured, herniated, and torn discs are other terms you may hear.

 There are certain types of jobs that put extra strain on the neck and back. In these jobs, workers may be more likely to aggravate or accelerate a condition such as arthritis or degenerative disc disease. Jobs in this category include those that require repetitive motions (typing, assembly line work), high impact activity (construction, other manual labor), or those that require workers to remain sedentary for long periods of time.

 Despite the fact that pre-existing injuries can be covered by workers’ compensation, the insurance companies sometimes try to deny this type of claim. It’s their job to deny claims that don’t meet the criteria, and they tend to push the limits. After all, they make money by paying out less to injured workers. 

If your claim for aggravation of a pre-existing injury is denied, you might just have to request a hearing and tell the arbitrator (basically a judge) why your injury should be covered. This is what Illinois workers’ compensation attorneys do for their clients. Many times, they are able to prove that benefits should be paid.


We are workers’ compensation attorneys who help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys. Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.

By Michael Helfand