ACC and Back Pain

Not all back pain is due to an accident. Before claiming ACC carefully consider how your back pain started. Often people just wake up with a sore back.


Not all back pain is due to trauma or an accident. Often the pain is there in the morning when we first get out of bed. We remember some event yesterday, such as digging or lifting and assume that is what caused it. This is not necessarily the case.

In a study of patients having surgery for disc prolapse in Wellington in 1978 at least one third of patients had no history of trauma.

This has relevance when you or your doctor consider making an ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation which covers accidents in New Zealand) claim. Such a claim can prevent you using your medical insurance and you may become frustrated at the delays, which can subsequently occur in approving tests or surgery.

Traumatic causes of back pain (fracture, dislocation &c) due to falls and road accidents are usually treated in trauma centres and are not primarily treated in private practice because of ACC Legislation which requires a seven day waiting period.

The ACC has a strict definition of trauma. It requires an external application of force so that just twisting around without falling is not recognised as an accident. Sneezing, coughing and straining are not usually accepted. Difficulties can also arise in having a claim accepted when there is pre-existing change in the spine, e.g., degeneration or spondylolisthesis. Having been involved in a car accident without specifically mentioning back pain does not mean your claim for back pain will be accepted. Accidents that happened years ago are rarely accepted without strong evidence.

Certain occupations have a higher incidence of back pain claims and while carpenters, mechanics, farmers and nurses experience more back pain than others farmers make fewer claims. It is difficult to have an ACC claim accepted based on occupational exposure or as a result of repeated minor trauma.