Your back plays an important role in your overall health. Your back, along with your chest, protects your lungs and heart. Your back supports your body while giving it the flexibility to bend and twist.
When you injure your back, you may feel unstable and weak. You may experience pain when sitting, standing, walking, or even lying down. Worse yet, a back injury can damage your spinal cord.
Here are some things to understand about a back injury and the compensation you may seek to deal with its effects.
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What is the Anatomy of Your Back?
Your back consists of the musculoskeletal structures that support and move the back of your thorax and abdomen. You can think of your back as everything from your skull to your hips in the back of your body.
The bones in your back include the spine. The spine has seven cervical vertebrae in your neck, 12 thoracic vertebrae in your upper and middle back, and five lumbar vertebrae in your lower back.
The vertebrae sit on top of each other to form a column. This column supports your body and your head against gravity. But since the column is made up of separate vertebrae, the column can curve and twist. This allows you to turn your upper body and bend forward, backward, and to the sides.
Fibrous discs sit between the vertebrae. These discs absorb shocks and cushion the vertebrae. They also provide a smooth surface on which the vertebrae can move.
The spine protects the spinal cord. Gaps in the vertebrae form the spinal canal. This houses all of the nerves connecting your brain to your body. Every nerve impulse to a body part below your neck travels along your spinal cord.
You have twelve pairs of ribs running from your spine to enclose your thoracic cavity. These ribs fit into joints in your spine. Ligaments hold the ribs to the vertebrae. Ligaments also hold the vertebrae together.
Your back also includes your shoulder blades. The muscles of your back tie together your skull, neck, shoulders, and abdomen. In your back, these muscles anchor to your ribs, shoulder blades, and vertebrae through tendons.
How Does a Back Injury Happen?
Most traumatic back injuries result from only a few types of trauma, including:
A blunt force hits your back without penetrating the skin. Blunt forces can happen when something hits your back, like a car hitting you in a pedestrian accident. A blunt force can also happen when your back hits the ground or other object in an elevated fall or a slip and fall accident.
A penetrating injury happens when something hits your back and pierces the skin. A construction accident where you are impaled on a piece of rebar would create a penetrating injury.
Hyperextension occurs when your back does not receive a direct impact. Instead, the forces on your body stretch your back and injure it.
The most common hyperextension injury happens in a car accident. In a car crash, nothing impacts your back except the seat in most instances. But people can sustain severe back and neck injuries in a car accident because the impact throws you around and causes your spine to hyperextend, then compress.
Your body heals small cracks and tears in your tissue while you rest. But if you repeat the same motions over and over, those cracks and tears propagate rather than heal. This leads to torn muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It can also cause stress fractures in your vertebrae and degenerative disc disease in your discs.
What Are Some Examples of Back Injuries?
Back injuries can take many forms and have many causes. Some examples of traumatic back injuries include:
Strained or Sprained Back
Back strain happens when the muscles or tendons in the back stretch or tear. Symptoms of a back strain include:
- Muscle spasms
- Limited range of motion
A sprained back happens when the ligaments get stretched or torn. Symptoms of a sprained back include:
- Back instability
- Limited range of motion
Back sprains and strains usually heal in six to eight weeks with rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication. Doctors rarely operate to repair a back strain or sprain.
Back trauma can fracture vertebrae. Each vertebra has a cylindrical body and wing-shaped processes. A fracture in the body can cause pain and instability in your spine.
Ligaments and tendons attach to the spinous processes. A fracture in the process can allow the vertebra to dislocate and endanger your spinal cord.
Doctors will usually stabilize your spine with plates and screws and prescribe rest until the bones heal.
Bulging or Herniated Disc
The discs include a fibrous annulus surrounding a gel-like nucleus. Back trauma can cause the annulus to weaken.
When the fibers remain intact, the disc can collapse and bulge. When the fibers separate, the nucleus can herniate out of the disc. In either case, the protrusion on the side of the disc can press on the spinal cord.
Doctors can remove a damaged disc and fuse the vertebrae together. They can also replace the damaged disc with an artificial disc. Both surgeries pose serious risks to patients and can also lead to other back problems.
Injured Spinal Cord
A significant danger of a back injury is spinal cord damage. If the spinal cord gets severed, you will experience partial or total paralysis. Paraplegia, for example, happens when the spinal cord gets severed in the lower back.
Spinal cord injuries can also happen when the spinal cord gets compressed. Pressure on the spinal cord causes the nerves to inflame and misfire. Symptoms of spinal cord compression can include:
- Pain that radiates to the limbs
- Sexual dysfunction
Doctors can reduce the symptoms with anti-inflammatory injections into the spinal canal. They can also try to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord.
Is Compensation Available for a Back Injury?
Compensation for a back injury caused by someone else’s negligence can cover your economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include your medical bills and lost income. Non-economic damages cover the diminishment in your quality of life due to pain, mental anguish, and inability to engage in activities.
Back injuries can cause pain and require expensive treatment and therapy. They can have a severe impact on your ability to work and earn a living. To discuss the compensation you can seek for your back injury, contact now the Shaked Law Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation.