Back injuries come in many forms and severities. A minor back injury could keep you out of work for a few days. A severe back injury could leave you with permanent disabilities.
Almost any kind of accident can injure your back. The muscles, bones, and ligaments in your back can suffer damage after a fall, an impact, or even a rapid deceleration.
Here is some information about the causes and effects of a back injury and how to claim compensation for one.
What Is the Structure and Function of Your Back?
Your back helps to support your abdomen, thorax, and head. It provides a strong column to carry your weight when you sit, stand, or walk. But it also gives you the flexibility to bend and twist your body.
Your spine includes the bones that give structure to your back. It contains 33 vertebrae, each separated by an intervertebral disc. Ligaments hold your vertebrae together. They keep the vertebrae and discs in position.
Each vertebra has a solid body and wing-shaped processes. The bodies align to form a column to carry and distribute your weight.
Your spinal canal sits between the bodies and processes and protects your spinal cord. Your spinal cord includes all of the nerves connecting your brain to your body below your neck.
Several large muscles connect your shoulder blades, ribs, and head to your back. These muscles anchor to the processes of your vertebrae through tendons.
Your ribs connect to your spine through ligaments. The ribs protect the vital organs in your chest, including your heart and lungs.
How Does a Back Injury Happen?
Back injuries can happen in a few ways, including:
Blunt Force Trauma
Blunt force trauma happens when a force strikes your back without piercing your skin. This could happen when an object hits your back. For example, a car hitting your back in a pedestrian accident could cause blunt force trauma.
It can also result from your back hitting a solid surface. Hitting your back on the ground after a slip and fall accident could cause blunt force trauma.
Penetrating trauma happens when something hits your back and pierces the skin. Examples include gunshot wounds, stab wounds, and accidents where you fall onto something that penetrates your back.
Hyperextension and Compression
Not all back injuries happen when something strikes you. When your body experiences acceleration or deceleration, your back flexes. For example, when you hit another vehicle in a car accident, you bend forward.
Mild acceleration or deceleration probably will not injure your back. But a rapid acceleration or deceleration hyperextends your spine.
As your body comes to a rest, the spine compresses. The forces on your spine that result from hyperextension followed by compression can fracture the vertebrae, crush the discs, and stretch or tear the ligaments.
What Are the Types of Back Injuries?
Because of the many structures in your back, you can suffer many different types of back injuries, including:
Back Strain or Sprain
Back strain happens when you stretch or tear a muscle or tendon in your back.
Symptoms of a back strain include:
- Limited range of motion
- Muscle spasms
A back sprain happens when the ligaments in your back get stretched or torn. Recall that ligaments hold together the vertebrae. They also hold your ribs to your spine.
Symptoms of a sprained back include:
- Limited range of motion
- Popping sound or sensation at the time of injury
- Back instability
Sprains and strains usually heal on their own in six to eight weeks. Doctors recommend using ice, rest, and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling and promote healing. Doctors rarely repair back strains or sprains surgically.
Back trauma can damage the discs that sit between vertebrae. Hyperextension and compression of the spine, for example, can crush the discs and damage their structure.
The discs have a fibrous annulus and a gel-like nucleus. A herniated disc happens when the fibers of the annulus separate and allow the nucleus to protrude. The bump on the side of the disc can cause pain and even compress the spinal cord.
A bulging disc happens when the fibers of the annulus weaken but remain intact. The disc flattens like a pancake and bulges around its perimeter. Again, the bulge could cause pain and irritate the spinal cord.
Doctors can treat a damaged disc by removing the disc and fusing the adjacent vertebrae. They can also implant an artificial disc to replace the damaged disc.
A fractured vertebra is one of the most severe back injuries. Bone fragments from a fractured vertebra can sever or compress the spinal cord. A severed spinal cord will leave you paralyzed.
But even spinal cord compression can cause serious symptoms. Whether caused by bone fragments or a damaged disc, symptoms of spinal cord compression can include:
- Pain that radiates to the arms, hands, legs, and feet
- Numbness or tingling
- Loss of dexterity
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Sexual dysfunction
Doctors treat fractured vertebrae by stabilizing the fractured vertebrae and immobilizing your back. This takes the pressure off your vertebrae and holds them in place while they heal. A fractured back usually heals within a few months.
What Compensation Can I Receive for a Back Injury?
You can recover compensation for back injuries that result from someone else’s negligence. This compensation can cover your economic losses, such as medical expenses and lost income, and non-economic losses, like pain and suffering.
To receive compensation, you must prove that another party caused your back injury. Generally, you need to prove negligence.
Negligence means that the other party failed to exercise ordinary care and caused your injury as a result. Thus, if your back injury resulted from a motorcycle accident where the driver ran a red light, you can probably prove negligence.
Contact a Jacksonville Personal Injury Lawyer For Help After a Back Injury
Back injuries can result in pain and instability so severe that you cannot work and may suffer a substantial reduction in your enjoyment of life. To discuss the compensation you might receive for your back injury, contact Baggett Law Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation with a Jacksonville personal injury attorney.