Back pain is the number one reason for missed work days. Back pain can make everything more difficult, from sitting to walking. With chronic or acute back pain, you may not even be able to sleep comfortably at night.
Worse yet, doctors have limited options for treating many back injuries like herniated or bulging discs. As a result, injury sufferers must resort to pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs to manage their symptoms rather than curing them.
If you’re dealing with chronic or acute back pain after an accident, you might be able to seek compensation for your back injury.
The Anatomy of Your Back
Your back lies on the rear side of your thorax. It supports the trunk yet provides the flexibility required for you to bend and twist. It also contains your ribs, which help protect your vital organs and spine.
Your spine runs down the middle of your back and is composed of 24 vertebrae. These segmented bones form a stiff column to support your body and head when you stand. They also transfer your weight to your pelvis and legs so you can walk upright.
The vertebrae allow the spine to bend and twist. Between them sit fluid-filled discs that facilitate smooth spine movement by providing a tough, slick surface for the vertebrae to glide over.
Each of the discs in your spine has a tough, fibrous collagen ring known as an annulus, which contains a gel-like nucleus that cushions and supports the vertebrae.
In terms of structure, each vertebra features a solid body and several thin, wing-shaped protrusions (or “processes”) extending outward from the center. The body provides structural support, particularly when aligned with the bodies of other vertebrae, while the processes offer an anchor point for the ligaments and tendons that hold the spine together.
The gap between the body and processes forms the spinal canal. The spinal cord passes through the spinal canal and branches at each vertebra into nerve roots. These nerve roots, in turn, branch into peripheral nerves that run to each muscle and organ in your body.
What Are the Causes of Back Injuries?
Back pain is ordinarily caused by disease or injury. The injuries that cause back pain typically result from three types of trauma:
Hyperextension occurs when the forces at play in an accident stretch the back beyond its normal range of motion. For example, a car accident can hyperextend your back by causing you to bend or twist under enormous forces. This hyperextension can stretch or even tear the soft tissues in the back.
Blunt trauma results from an impact on the back that doesn’t create an open wound. A slip and fall accident can cause blunt trauma when your feet lose traction and you fall onto your back. The impact from blunt trauma can bruise soft tissue and fracture bones.
Penetrating trauma happens when an object strikes your back and creates an open wound. A workplace accident where an explosion drives shards of metal into your back, for instance, could cause penetrating trauma.
Examples of Back Injuries
Back injuries can take many forms. Some of the most common back injuries include:
A fractured vertebra is the most serious back injury you can suffer. When a vertebra fractures, it can damage the spinal cord.
If the body of the vertebra fractures, bone fragments can penetrate the spinal canal and sever the spinal cord. Similarly, the vertebra can dislocate and sever the spinal cord if a process fractures.
In either case, the damage to the spinal cord can cause paralysis and loss of sensation below the level of the injury. A spinal cord injury in the lower back can cause paraplegia, while a spinal cord injury in the neck can cause quadriplegia.
A fractured vertebra may require surgical stabilization to reduce the risk of a spinal cord injury. Doctors may use rods and screws to relieve pressure on the fractured vertebra. This allows the broken vertebra to heal and reduces the chances of dislocation.
Pressure on a disc can cause it to deform. When the fibers of the annulus separate, the nucleus can protrude between them, leading to a herniated disc.
When fibers of the annulus weaken without separating, your body weight can cause the disc to flatten. As it does so, the sides of the disc bulge, causing a bulging disc.
A weakened disc can destabilize your back, but the most severe problems occur when the disc presses on nearby nerve roots. The pressure causes the nerve roots to become irritated and inflamed. The nerves may misfire, causing:
- Pain, especially radiating pain in the limbs
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness or tingling
Doctors cannot repair a deformed disc. They can remove it and either replace it with an artificial disc or fuse the adjacent vertebrae. These operations have significant risks, as removing a disc can place additional stress on the remaining discs and deform them.
Instead of treating the disc, doctors will often treat the nerve inflammation. By injecting anti-inflammatory drugs into the inflamed nerve root, they can relieve the symptoms without spinal surgery.
Strained or Sprained Back
Back strain happens when you stretch or tear muscles or tendons in your back. The damaged muscle or tendons can cause:
- Back stiffness
- Muscle spasms
A sprained back occurs when you hyperextend or tear the ligaments holding your spine together. Symptoms of a sprained back include:
- Inflammation near your spine
- Limited range of motion
- Back instability
- Popping in your back
Back strains and sprains usually don’t require surgery. Instead, doctors prescribe home care, including rest, ice on the injured area, and anti-inflammatory drugs. Most back strains and sprains heal in four to six weeks.
Pursuing Compensation for a Back Injury
To successfully pursue compensation for a back injury, you must show that the injury resulted from someone else’s negligent or intentional actions.
If you have evidence to establish liability for your injury, you can seek compensation for both economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses include all the financial impacts of your injuries, from medical expenses to lost income, while non-economic losses include all the ways your injuries diminished your quality of life.
Contact a Naperville Personal Injury Lawyer for Help
To discuss the compensation you can seek for your back injury, contact us at the Law Offices of Mathys & Schneid and get a free consultation or call us at (630) 428-4040. Our Naperville personal injury lawyers are ready to help you.