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Back Injuries

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Back injuries can have many different causes, ranging from degenerative disk disease to back trauma. Depending on the structures injured, you may face back surgery, physical therapy, or even permanent paralysis.

Back pain causes more missed work days than any other injury. It is also common, with over 65 million Americans reporting a recent incident involving back pain. As a result, these injuries can significantly impact earning capacity and medical costs.

Causes of Back Injuries

Causes of Back Injuries

Your back serves many functions, including supporting your body and head and protecting your spinal cord. Its construction also allows enormous flexibility, allowing you to bend and twist your body.

Back injuries can result from diseases or wear and tear. Trauma can also injure the back. Four common types of traumatic back injuries include the following:

Penetrating Injury

A penetrating back injury happens when a foreign object pierces the back. The object can tear through soft tissues and even shatter bones. An open wound can also cause an infection. If the penetrating object enters the spine, it can cause a spinal cord injury.

One example of a penetrating injury occurs during an assault. A bullet or knife blade can pierce your back, resulting in bleeding and tissue damage. Another example of a penetrating injury happens during a workplace accident. You can fall onto a protruding object, like a nail or piece of rebar, that penetrates your back.

Blunt Injury

Blunt injuries happen when you strike your back without piercing it. These injuries can tear soft tissues and break bones. But unlike penetrating injuries, the risk of infection from a blunt injury is relatively low.

Blunt injuries can happen in falls. For example, your feet slip forward when you lose traction in a slip and fall accident. As your center of gravity shifts, you fall backward. You can injure your back when you hit the ground.

Hyperextension Injury

Hyperextension occurs when your back twists, stretches, or bends too far or in an awkward direction. The tissues in your back can suffer damage as they get pulled. They can even tear.

A common cause of hyperextension trauma comes from car accidents. Your body will whip side to side or back and forth, depending on the type of collision. These motions stretch and compress your spine, leading to soft tissue injuries and bone fractures.

Repetitive Stress Injury

When you stress your body, you create microscopic tears and cracks. Your body repairs these stress injuries when you rest. When you repeat the stresses without resting, the damage accumulates. Eventually, the microscopic injuries grow into visible injuries that produce chronic pain and inflammation.

Repetitive stress injuries to the back often happen when workers repeatedly lift or carry. Work-related repetitive stress injuries are usually eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

Back Injury Examples

Your back includes many structures, including vertebrae, intervertebral disks, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Back injuries can take many forms, depending on the back structures that sustain damage. Some common back injuries include the following:

Back Strain

Your back has some of the largest muscles in your body. These muscles help your back support your weight and move your arms and torso. Tendons anchor the back muscles to the spine, shoulder blades, collarbones, ribs, skull, and hips.

A back strain happens when you hyperextend the back muscles or tendons. Hyperextension can cause the soft tissues to stretch or tear. 

This damage can cause any of the following symptoms:

  • Muscle pain and spasms
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Weakness

Mild back strain symptoms usually last four to six weeks. Severe symptoms may last several months. Your doctor will likely prescribe rest and anti-inflammatory medication during your recovery. You may have restrictions placed on your activities. The doctor may also recommend physical therapy.

Sprained Back

Ligaments hold your vertebrae together. They also connect your shoulder blades to your collarbones and your skull to your spine. These tough bands of tissue guide the movement of your joints by preventing the bones from moving too far or in the wrong direction.

Sprains happen when you hyperextend ligaments. 

You may experience many of the following symptoms when ligaments stretch and tear due to hyperextension:

  • Joint pain and instability
  • Inflammation
  • Limited range of motion

Mild ligament sprains take several weeks to heal. A severe strain involving a full-thickness ligament tear might require surgical repair. In either case, your doctor will likely prescribe rest, anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy.

Disk Injury

Your spine consists of collagen disks that alternate with vertebrae. These disks cushion the spine and prevent the vertebrae from grinding against each other. The disks include two types of collagen. A tough outer annulus encloses a soft inner nucleus. Together, the disks produce a tough and springy pad.

Disk injuries happen as a result of spinal compression. For example, during whiplash, the spine hyperextends as you whip forward, compresses as your body swings back to its original position, and then hyperextends again as you whip backward. This cycle of hyperextension and compression can damage muscles, tendons, ligaments, and disks in a single incident.

Disks can deform in two primary ways. A disk herniates when the annulus tears and the nucleus protrudes through the opening. A disk bulges when the annulus weakens, and the entire disk flattens like a pancake. In either case, a compressed disk causes your spine to shorten, pulling everything out of place. 

As a result, you may experience:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Back instability

If the herniation or bulge presses on a nerve root, you may also experience pain and weakness that radiates into your limbs. For neck injuries, the symptoms may reach your shoulders and arms. Disk injuries in the lower back will affect your hips, buttocks, and legs.

Fractured Vertebrae

A fractured vertebrae can have catastrophic consequences. Bone fragments can move into the spinal canal and compress or sever the spinal cord. Spinal cord injuries can cause temporary or permanent paralysis and loss of sensation below the level of the injury.

Even if you do not suffer a spinal cord injury, a fractured back will require expensive treatment. You will probably need surgery to stabilize your spine. Until your spine heals, you will need a back brace and have stringent limits on your activities.

What Compensation Can I Seek for a Back Injury?

Florida law allows injured people to pursue injury claims against those responsible for injuring them. To recover compensation, you must prove the other party acted negligently or wrongfully in injuring you.

If you suffered a back injury in a car accident, you have one additional hurdle. The law limits you to the benefits under your no-fault insurance policy unless you suffered a significant, permanent injury or incurred expenses that exceed your policy limits. You can pursue an injury claim against the at-fault driver if you meet either criteria.

Contact a Tampa Personal Injury Lawyer for Help With a Back Injury Claim

A back injury can threaten your physical and financial health. Contact Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers at (813) 223-6200 for a free consultation to discuss your back injury and how we can help you pursue injury compensation in Florida.

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