Trauma can cause a variety of back injuries. After an accident, you might experience symptoms ranging from soreness to paralysis.
A back injury can affect everything you do. You might constantly struggle to find a comfortable position and—as a result—experience chronic pain whether you lie down, sit, or stand.
Here is an overview of the causes and effects of a traumatic back injury.
What Is the Anatomy of Your Back?
Your back supports the weight of your upper body and head. It also provides the strength and flexibility to rotate, bend, and twist your body.
Your back includes your spine, shoulder blades, and ribs. Your spine runs down the center of your back and provides a column to support your back. The spine includes 33 vertebrae running from your hips to your skull.
Intervertebral discs sit between each pair of vertebrae. The discs have a tough, fibrous outer layer called the annulus and a soft, gel-like interior called the nucleus. The discs cushion your vertebrae and provide a smooth surface for the vertebrae when you twist and bend your back.
The spine protects the spinal cord—the bundle of nerves connecting your brain to your body. Motor signals from your brain move your body. Sensory signals from your body tell your brain about pressures, temperatures, and textures you experience.
Ligaments hold the vertebrae together and provide tension to keep the discs in place. Ligaments also hold 12 pairs of ribs to the spine. The ribs protect the chest cavity and the vital organs located inside it.
The back includes several muscle groups. These muscles anchor the spine, skull, shoulder blades, and ribs through tendons. The muscles and tendons cooperate in carrying your weight and moving your back, head, and shoulders.
How Does a Back Injury Happen?
Back injuries can happen in a few ways, including:
Blunt Force Injury
A blunt force injury happens when a force impacts your back without piercing the skin. This could occur when something strikes your back. For example, a vehicle hitting you in a pedestrian accident might cause a blunt force injury to your back.
It could also happen when your back hits a surface. When you hit your back on the ground after a slip and fall accident, you experience a blunt force back injury.
A penetrating injury occurs when an object strikes your back and penetrates the skin. Even if the object only lacerates the skin, it can cause bleeding and infection.
But an object penetrating deeper into your back could cause severe damage. If it severs nerves in your spinal cord, the resulting spinal cord injury can cause paralysis and loss of sensation. If an object enters the chest cavity and damages the heart or lungs, you could die.
A hyperextension injury happens because the individual parts of your back do not experience the same forces or motion. In some situations, this helps protect your back. It can extend, bend, or twist without snapping.
But under powerful forces like those you might experience in a car accident, your back can hyperextend. Your back compresses, and the hyperextended parts crash together as you come to rest.
This hyperextension and compression can:
- Stretch or tear muscles, tendons, and ligaments
- Fracture vertebrae
- Compress discs
Even though nothing struck your back, you could still experience severe back injuries from hyperextension.
What Are the Types of Back Injuries?
Back injuries can affect many ligaments, tendons, and muscles in your back. Some common back injuries include:
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:
- Swelling and inflammation
- Back spasms
- Limited range of motion
Back sprains happen when you stretch or tear a ligament in your back.
Symptoms of a back sprain include:
- Swelling and inflammation
- Back instability
- Popping sound or sensation at the time of injury
- Limited range of motion
Most sprains and strains improve in two weeks and fully heal in four to six weeks. Your doctor will probably recommend rest, ice, and anti-inflammatories. Doctors rarely operate to repair a torn tendon or ligament in your back.
Hyperextension and compression in your back can crush a disc. When the discs get damaged, they can protrude into the spinal canal and compress the spinal cord.
A herniated disc happens when the annulus fibers separate and allow the nucleus to protrude through it. This bump on the side of the disc can press on the spinal cord.
A bulging disc happens when the annulus weakens but does not break down. The annulus bulges like a barrel. Again, the bulge can press on the spinal cord.
Under some conditions, the compression of the spine can fracture a vertebra. This is the most dangerous type of back injury because bone fragments can sever the spinal cord.
If the spinal cord gets severed, you will experience paralysis and loss of sensation. If the bone fragments press on the spinal cord, they will cause the nerves to inflame.
This will produce symptoms such as:
- Loss of dexterity
Doctors cannot repair a severed spinal cord. They might relieve spinal cord compression by removing the source of the compression and treating you with anti-inflammatory drugs.
What Compensation Can I Seek for Back Injuries?
If you were injured due to someone else’s negligence, you might be entitled to compensation to cover your economic and non-economic losses.
Economic damages compensate you for all of the ways your back injury affects you financially.
Some common examples of economic losses include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income due to missed work
- Diminished earning capacity from permanent disabilities
Back injuries can have a major impact on your ability to earn a living. A back injury could affect your ability to sit, stand, walk, lift, or carry. Whether your job involves manual labor or office work, this could affect your tasks and how long you can perform them.
Non-economic damages cover the ways your back injury affects your quality of life.
Examples of non-economic losses include:
- Inability to perform tasks
- Reduction in the enjoyment of life
A lawyer will evaluate the cause of your accident and help you accurately calculate your damages.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer For Help Recovering Compensation For a Back Injury
Back injuries can disable you temporarily or permanently. They can cause chronic pain and even paralyze you. To learn about the compensation you might receive for the effects of your back injury, contact one of our personal injury lawyers at Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation at (727) 787-2500.