Back injuries happen frequently. Back pain is the most common reason employees give for missing work.
These injuries are also debilitating. When you injure your back, you might not find any position, from standing to lying down, where you do not experience pain.
Below, you will learn some types of back injuries and the compensation you can seek for their effects.
Table of Contents
The Structure of Your Back
Your back supports the weight of your upper body and head. It also provides the flexibility for you to bend over and twist your body.
The strength and flexibility of your back come from the construction of your spine. Rather than a single rigid bone, the spine has 24 individual vertebrae. When these bones align, they form a strong column. But they can bend into an arc or twist around their central axis.
You have seven cervical vertebrae in your neck. These vertebrae support your head. They also protect the section of the spinal cord responsible for controlling your breathing, swallowing, and other vital functions.
You have 12 thoracic vertebrae in your upper back. These vertebrae form joints with your 12 pairs of ribs.
In your lower back, you have five lumbar vertebrae. These support your body’s weight and transfer it to your pelvis.
Each vertebra has a solid body and wing-shaped processes. The spinous process is the ridge that runs up the center of your back.
Discs sit between the vertebrae. The discs have a tough fibrous annulus that surrounds a soft, gel-like nucleus. The discs cushion your spine. They also allow the vertebrae to move smoothly without grinding.
Ligaments hold the vertebrae and discs in place. They also hold the ribs to the spine.
Large muscles help you support your weight and move your back. These muscles anchor via tendons to the spinous process, ribs, shoulder blades, and skull.
Causes of Back Injuries
Back injuries can result from diseases, trauma, or overuse. Some types of trauma that can cause a back injury include:
Hyperextension happens when your back stretches, bends, or twists abnormally. For example, during a car accident, the force of the collision could cause your back to twist or bend unnaturally.
Importantly, hyperextension can happen even if your back does not get hit by anything. Whipping forces alone can hyperextend your back.
Blunt Force Impact
If something hits your back without causing an open wound, you have a blunt force impact. A blunt force impact can damage discs and fracture bones.
When you hit your back during a slip and fall accident, you have a blunt force back injury.
You suffer a penetrating impact when you get hit by something that pierces your back. As a result, you have an open wound in your back.
You could suffer a penetrating impact in a workplace accident if you fall from a roof onto a fence post that pierces your back.
Back Injury Types
A back injury can take many forms depending on the structures damaged. The type of back injury will determine your course of treatment and your prognosis.
Some types of back injuries include:
Back Strain and Back Sprain
Back strain happens when you tear or stretch a muscle or tendon in your back. Some symptoms of back strain include:
- Back pain
- Muscle spasms
A sprained back happens when you tear or stretch a ligament in your back. Common ligaments that cause a sprained back include the ligaments that hold the vertebrae together and the ligaments that hold the ribs to the spine.
Some symptoms of a sprained back include:
- Back pain
- Swelling near the spine
- Popping sensation during the accident
- Back instability
Sprains and strains usually heal without surgery. Instead, your doctor will prescribe rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Forces from an accident can compress your discs. When discs compress, they can deform.
A herniated disc happens when the annulus separates and allows the nucleus to protrude. A bulging disc happens when the annulus weakens but does not separate. The disc sags and bulges around its circumference.
In either case, the deformation can press on the spinal cord or nearby nerve roots. The pinched nerves inflame, producing:
- Radiating pain
- Loss of dexterity
Doctors cannot repair a damaged disc. They can surgically remove the disc and fuse the vertebrae together. They can also replace the damaged disc with an artificial disc.
A fractured vertebra can destabilize your back and pose a threat of paralysis. When the body of a vertebra fractures, bone fragments can migrate into the spinal canal. There, the fragments can sever or compress the spinal cord.
When a vertebra’s process fractures, it loses the tendons and ligaments holding it in place. The vertebra can dislocate and compress or sever the spinal cord.
When the spinal cord gets severed, you will experience permanent paralysis. The extent of the paralysis depends on the location of the injury. A neck injury could cause quadriplegia while a back injury could produce paraplegia.
Getting Compensation for a Back Injury
You can seek injury compensation when you injure your back in an accident caused by someone else. To win compensation, you must usually prove the other person acted negligently in causing your injury.
If you prove negligence, you can get compensation for your economic and non-economic losses. Your economic losses include all of the ways your injuries affect your finances — medical expenses, lost income, and diminished earning capacity due to disabilities.
Your non-economic losses include all of the ways your injuries diminished your quality of life. Examples of non-economic losses include pain, suffering, and the inability to participate in activities.
Contact a Tifton Personal Injury Lawyer for Help
A back injury is a serious problem. It might produce chronic or recurring pain for the rest of your life. If the back injury irritates nearby nerve roots, your symptoms could radiate beyond your back.