A back injury can keep you from working or performing your daily activities. The associated pain, weakness, and instability in your back could affect your ability to stand, walk, or even lie down comfortably. Worse yet, a back injury can damage the nerves in and near your spine, producing symptoms that radiate from your back to your limbs.
Back injuries can range from a strained muscle to a fractured vertebra. These injuries can result from almost any type of trauma, especially two of the most common causes of emergency room visits: falls and car accidents.
The Structure and Function of Your Back
Your back and the muscles within it cover the area between your neck and hips. They support your body and head and direct your body weight into your hips so you can walk, run, and jump.
The back also helps to protect the organs in your chest and abdomen, as well as your spinal cord. Its muscles, which are some of the largest in the body, use tendons to anchor themselves to the bone structure of your back, formed by your spine, shoulder blades, and ribs.
The spine includes 24 vertebrae between your skull and your pelvis. An additional five fused vertebrae in your sacrum attach your spine to your pelvis. Between three and five fused vertebrae are located in your coccyx, commonly called the tailbone.
The part of your spine that runs through your neck has seven cervical vertebrae, and the portion of the spine in your back has twelve thoracic vertebrae and five lumbar vertebrae. The thoracic vertebrae attach to your twelve pairs of ribs via ligaments, and the lumbar vertebrae sit right above your hips.
Collagen discs cushion your vertebrae with a fibrous outer surface and a gel-like interior. The collagen has a tough texture that bounces back when compressed, as well as smooth surfaces that allow the vertebrae to glide over other discs without grinding.
What Are Some Common Causes of Back Injuries?
Back injuries are sustained as the result of various causes, such as:
When an object pierces your back, it can tear soft tissues and chip your bones. It can also tear through nerves and blood vessels. And since the object creates an open wound, you could suffer from blood loss and develop an infection.
Penetrating trauma can happen anytime you are struck by a high-speed impact. Thus, a construction accident involving a fall onto a sharp object could result in penetrating back trauma, or an oil or gas explosion could propel shrapnel into your back.
Blunt trauma takes place when something strikes your back without piercing it. Mild trauma can create bruises when the impact bursts blood vessels under the skin, but severe blunt trauma can break bones and dislocate joints.
One of the most common causes of blunt trauma is falls, namely slip and fall accidents, where your feet slip forward, and you fall onto your back. Another common cause of blunt back trauma is vehicular impact. In a pedestrian accident, the impact can injure the victim’s back.
Hyperextension injuries occur when your accident causes your back to contort abnormally. The stresses on your muscles, tendons, and ligaments can stretch them so far that they tear. Mild injuries result from small tears, while severe injuries might involve a full-thickness tear.
Car accidents often cause hyperextension trauma through whiplash, which happens when your body whips back and forth as well as side to side. The vertebrae separate slightly and then crash back together, and both of these hyper-extensive and compressive forces can injure your back.
What Are Examples of Back Injuries?
Back injuries can take many forms, depending on the structures within the back that are damaged. With that said, some common back injuries include the following:
Back Sprains and Strains
Back sprains and strains are often confused with one another, but they are the results of injuries to different structures within your musculoskeletal system.
Sprains happen when you hyperextend your ligaments, which hold your vertebrae together as well as your ribs to your spine.
When you sprain your back, you will experience symptoms such as:
- Spine pain
- Popping noise at the time of injury
Strains, by contrast, happen when you hyperextend your muscles or tendons. Instead of experiencing symptoms along the spine as you would with a sprain, the symptoms of a strain can manifest anywhere along your back.
These symptoms might include the following:
- Muscle pain and spasms
- Limited range of motion and weakness
Mild sprains and strains usually take four to six weeks to heal. But full-thickness tears might take months to heal and may require physical therapy to help your back support your weight during your recovery.
When the collagen discs in your back are compressed, they can deform in one of two ways. A herniated disc occurs when the fibers of the outer layer of the disc separate and allow the gel inside to protrude. A bulging disc happens when the fibers weaken and sag without separating, resulting in the disc flattening and spreading out.
In either case, deformation causes the spine to shorten, stressing the back’s muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
More importantly, a deformed disc can press on nerve roots near the spine, inflaming them and producing symptoms in your arms and legs, such as:
- Numbness or tingling
- Muscle spasms
Damaged discs do not heal, and doctors must remove them. They will either replace it with an artificial disc or fuse the vertebrae together without a disc between them.
When you fracture a vertebra, it can slip out of place, and bone fragments from the broken vertebra can migrate into the spinal canal. A broken bone can cut the spinal cord, producing paralysis and a total loss of sensation below the level of the injury. Doctors cannot repair a severed spinal cord.
How Can You Get Compensated For a Traumatic Back Injury?
You can pursue compensation for back injuries that resulted from someone else’s intentional or negligent actions. If you prove liability, you can get compensation for your economic and non-economic losses, including your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
A back injury can hurt every time you move. It can even make it impossible for you to find a comfortable sleeping position. Contact Zaner Harden Law for a free consultation to discuss your back injury and how you can pursue financial compensation for it.