From car crashes to work accidents, back injuries are extremely common. Most back injuries occur when the muscles and ligaments are stretched beyond their capacity. This strain causes pain and inflammation that can be quite debilitating. Back pain is difficult to live with because you can’t find comfort while sitting, standing, or lying down, which means you’re virtually always in pain.
Back Injury Basics
The spine is comprised of a long column of 33 bones with ligaments and soft tissue that hold them together to create the range of motion we have in our back. Several muscles extend in various directions from our spine, and any of these 33 vertebrae, ligaments, tissue, or muscles can sustain an injury following a traumatic event. Back injuries are usually classified by the area of the back that hurts:
- Upper Back Pain: The upper back includes the cervical vertebrae and the supporting muscles and ligaments. Upper back injuries are often referred to as neck injuries.
- Middle Back Pain: The middle back includes the thoracic vertebrae and the supporting muscles and ligaments.
- Lower Back Pain: The lower back includes the lumbar vertebrae and the supporting muscles and ligaments.
Common Causes of Back Injuries
Back injuries may be caused by a variety of events including automobile accidents, work accidents, falls, sports injuries, and other physical activities. Automobile accidents that involved sudden impacts are an extremely common cause of back injuries. The impact of the accident causes the body to be violently thrown in various directions, forcing vertebrae, muscles and ligaments out of their natural position.
In addition to auto accidents, activities that put too much strain on your back muscles, vertebrae, or ligaments has the potential to cause a back injury. The severity of the injury depends on several factors, some of which include the forces involved, weight involved, the position of the body at the time of injury, your age, etc.
How is a Back Injury Diagnosed?
Proper back injury diagnosis is required in order to find treatment and seek compensation. All to often after an accident, the emergency room will only take a few x-rays to ensure there are no broken bones. The victim is then released and told to follow-up with a specialist if the pain continues. In addition, back pain after an accident is often not present immediately after the impact, but instead takes a few days to weeks to appear. Regardless of your situation, ongoing back pain needs to be examined by a medical professional.
Generally a primary care doctor, orthopedic surgeon, or other back injury doctor, will perform a full physical exam to understand the nature, location and extent of your back injury. They may also order a variety of tests including x-rays, CT scans, or an MRI.
- X-Ray: An x-ray shows a high level of detail of the bone structure in the spine. This allows doctors to see if there are any fractures, tumors, or other causes of instability or back pain. X-rays do not do a good job of showing soft tissue injuries or herniated discs, bulging discs, and other more serious back injuries.
- CT Scan: A CT scan can help identify muscle and soft tissue damage such as herniated discs or spinal stenosis.
- MRI: An MRI can help identify injuries that involve vertebral discs and the nerve roots in the back and spine. An MRI is typically used for proper diagnosis and surgical planning.
- Myelogram: A myelogram is an imagine tool that uses contrast dye and computed tomography (CT) technology to examine the spine and provide extremely reliable photos.
Serious back injuries may require any number of tests to properly diagnose the problem. It is only after a proper diagnosis that the proper treatment plan can be recommended.
Classifying Back Injuries
The term back injury is a general term that envelops injuries that affect each part of the back. Your specific injury is unique to your situation. Here are several types of back injuries a person may experience.
- Work-Related Lower Back Injury: Lower back injuries are often the result of picking up something heavy, pulling, bending or twisting in a direction that causes strain or sprain. If this occurs while on the jobs, a worker is entitled to bring a workers compensation claim for the injury.
- Work Related Upper Back Injury: Upper back injuries may result from picking up something heavy, twisting your body in a direction that causes strain or sprain, extreme stress, or repetitive motion. Some of the more common upper back injuries are tension-neck syndrome, shoulder impingement syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome, and rotator cuff tendinitis.
- Inflammation: Back injuries often cause inflammation that creates very tender or sore spots along the spine where muscles meet ligaments. Stretched ligaments cause serious pain that may require several months to fully heal.
- Whiplash: Whiplash is a condition in which the vertebrae in the upper neck have been forcefully pushed and pulled into unnatural positions. The whip-like motion is where the condition gets its name.
- Herniated Discs: A herniated disc, a.k.a slipped disc, bulging disc, ruptured disc, is a very painful condition in which the jelly-like substance from inside one of the fibrous discs that cushion the bones of the vertebrae is forced out of its natural position or ruptures. When the vertebrae is forced from its place, it often intrudes into the spinal nerves. A herniated disc may cause great pain, numbness, weakness, or nerve pain or pressure. Herniated discs are common cause of ongoing back pain that may require surgery to correct.
- Stenosis: Stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal cord that most often results in what we refer to as a pinched nerve. A CT scan or MRI is often required for proper diagnosis.
- Scoliosis: Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine. This particular injury occurs for a variety of reasons. The spine tries to compensate for the initial curve in the spine by curving in the opposite direction below the initial curve. This is what creates the S shape in the spine.
- Compression Fracture: A compression fracture is the structural collapse of vertebrae. Often caused by osteoporosis or trauma, you may experience mild to severe pain depending on the severity of the fracture.
- Vertebral Fracture: Vertebral fractures are generally caused by a traumatic event like a car or trucking accident.
Regardless of the type of back injury, they all carry the potential to cause a lifetime of pain and suffering. The importance of the back cannot be overstated or underestimated. It is used in virtually everything we do and provides our mobility. The proper back injury treatment and diagnosis is vital.
Back Injury Treatment and Pain Relief
Back injury treatment and pain relief varies from person to person and depends on the severity of the injury. Some back injuries may resolve themselves with with Tylenol or Advil, while others require invasive surgery to repair. Some of the common forms of medical treatment for back injuries include:
- Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers
- TENS unit and IDET
- Chiropractic Care
- Bioelectric Therapy
- Pain Management
- Nerve Blocks
- Spinal Stimulation
- Physical Therapy
- Spinal Decompression Therapy
St. Louis Back Injury Lawyers, Settlements and Lawsuits
Given the lasting and severe impact of back injuries, it is important that a proper diagnosis is obtained. Only then can the proper course of treatment be recommended and a settlement or lawsuit even be discussed. Insurance companies all too often rush in after an accident and tempt accident victims to accept a few hundred dollars in exchange for signing a full release of liability. Once signed, the victim will be prevented from ever receiving any compensation for future care.
The St. Louis accident lawyers at The Dixon Injury Firm have helped accident victims recover over $35,000,000 for their injuries. Most importantly, our back injury lawyers will ensure you receive the treatment needed to properly diagnose and treat the problem. Back injuries often result in ongoing medical expenses, lost wages, and permanent suffering. If your back injury is the result of the negligence of another, Missouri law mandates the responsible party fully reimburse you for your harms and losses.
There is NO FEE for a back injury consultation after an accident. Our injury awyers will help analyze your situation and make sure you are not being rushed into a settlement in order to save an insurance company money. Call (314) 409-7060 to speak to a back injury attorney 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.