A back injury can happen in most accidents. Stress on your back can come from falls, car accidents, or other traumatic events.
Severe economic losses can result from a back injury. Back pain is the most common cause of missed work, resulting in lost wages.
Here are some facts you should know about the causes and effects of a back injury, as well as the compensation you can seek for one.
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What Is the Structure of Your Back?
Your back supports your weight and maneuvers your body. It can perform these functions because your spine is not formed from one solid piece. Instead, it has 24 separate vertebrae — seven cervical vertebrae in your neck, twelve thoracic vertebrae supporting your ribs, and five lumbar vertebrae in your lower back.
The individual vertebrae allow your spine to bend and twist like links in a chain. But unlike a chain, the vertebrae can align to form a column. This column supports your weight when you sit, stand, and walk. This column also transfers the weight of your head and torso to your hips and legs.
The vertebrae have a cylindrical body attached to wing-shaped processes. The processes of your vertebrae align to form the spinous process, providing an anchor point for muscles in the back.
Discs sit between the bodies and are formed from a tough collagen ring that surrounds a gel-like center. The discs cushion your spine and also lubricate the surfaces of your vertebrae so they can move without grinding on each other.
Ligaments hold your vertebrae and discs in place, and hold your ribs to your vertebrae. These ligaments provide the strength to hold your skeleton together while remaining flexible enough to allow movement in your joints.
Your back also includes some of the largest muscles in your body, which provide movement and strength to your back. Tendons anchor these muscles to your spinous process, ribs, shoulder blades, and skull.
What Can Cause a Back Injury?
Back injuries result from physical trauma that can come in many forms, including overuse, hyperextension, penetrating trauma, and blunt trauma.
During normal activity, stresses on your back cause microscopic tears and cracks. When you rest and eat properly, your body heals this damage, making your back stronger. Generally, this is how exercise works to build your body’s muscles.
But when you repeat the same motions without taking time to recover, the damage propagates instead of heals. Small cracks in your vertebrae develop into stress fractures, similar to how small tears in your muscles, tendons, and ligaments develop into strains or sprains.
Hyperextension happens when your back gets stretched beyond its normal length. This can happen when it twists, bends, or stretches under the force of an accident.
Car accidents are a common cause of hyperextension. As your body whips forward and backward in a car crash, your spine hyperextends, then compresses. The hyperextension and compression of your spine can stretch your muscles, tendons, and ligaments and crush your vertebrae and discs.
Penetrating trauma occurs when an object pierces your back. If the object enters your spinal canal and severs your spinal cord, it can cause paralysis. Penetrating injuries can also cause bleeding and lead to infections if microorganisms get into the open wound.
Blunt trauma happens when something hits your back but does not cause an open wound. Some examples of blunt trauma are hitting the ground after a slip and fall accident and getting hit by a vehicle in a pedestrian accident.
The force of blunt trauma can fracture vertebrae, deform discs, and hyperextend your back – causing hyperextension injuries.
What Are Some Examples of Back Injuries?
Back injuries can take many forms, depending on which back structures get injured.
Sprained or Strained Back
Back sprains happen when you stretch or tear the ligaments in your back. Ligaments hold your vertebrae together, but when you hyperextend your back, the ligaments can stretch or tear.
Some symptoms of back sprains include:
- Back instability
Back strain happens when trauma stretches or tears the back muscles or tendons, and it can result from hyperextension injuries, penetrating injuries, blunt force injuries, and overuse.
Symptoms of a strained back include:
- Muscle spasms
A strained or sprained back usually heals on its own in about four weeks with rest. Doctors rarely operate on back sprains or strains.
When the discs get compressed, they can deform. This deformation can present in two primary ways. A herniated disc happens when a disc’s outer ring breaks down and allows the gel inside to protrude. A bulging disc occurs when a disc’s outer ring sags, causing the sides of the disc to bulge outward.
The deformed disc can press on nearby nerves. These compressed nerves can cause symptoms like radiating nerve pain, weakness, and numbness.
There are not many ideal options for treating injured discs. Doctors can remove the disc and fuse the vertebrae, but the fused vertebrae can strain the remaining discs.
A fractured vertebra can cause a spinal cord injury if the bone fragments dislocate into the spinal canal. The bone fragments can then sever or compress the nerves of the spinal cord, causing paralysis.
What Compensation Can You Seek For a Back Injury?
If you suffer a back injury due to someone else’s negligent actions, you can seek injury compensation. This compensation can cover both your economic damages, like medical costs and lost wages, and non-economic damages stemming from a diminishment in your quality of life.
A back injury can cause temporary or permanent disabilities. As a result of these disabilities, you might require extensive treatment and rehabilitation. You might also miss substantial time from work. Contact Anderson Injury Lawyers for a free consultation to discuss the compensation you can seek for your back injury.