Why Is a Back Injury Cause For Concern?
Within the scope of Personal Injury Law we see endless injuries that affect our clients. These injuries cause irreparable harm, making daily life impossible to live fully. Medical Malpractice. Car accidents. Motorcycle accidents. Traumatic Brain Injury. There isn’t one specific injury that’s “the most painful”. The “pain” in “pain and suffering” is unique to each client. These injuries cause innumerable symptoms, sometimes leaving clients bed bound or in a wheelchair for long periods of time.
A common form of injury Personal Injury lawyers deal with on the legal side, are back injuries. Within this Shaked Law Resource article we provide information necessary to fully understand the painful reality of back injuries.
- What is a herniated disk injury?
- What are some common causes of back injury?
- When does a back injury become “high risk”?
- What happens when workers sustain injury on the job?
What is a herniated disk injury?
First, let’s look at a very common back injury known as a “herniated disk”.
Our vertebrae (bones of the spine) are protected by “rubbery” or “jelly-like” cushions between each one. In a herniated disk injury, this can be in reference to a problem with one of those “jelly-like” cushions that act as a shock absorber for our spine. A herniation can cause irritation to the spinal nerves which can in turn cause a great deal of pain. However, pain isn’t the only symptom found in herniated disk injuries.
A herniated disk is not just “back pain”. In severe cases, it can be as painful as an SCI and as a result, may require surgery. Usually, with proper medical attention the herniated disk can be treated, achieving pain relief. However, recovery is lengthy. Thus, a large percentage of sufferers never experience total relief of their symptoms.
Other symptoms of herniated disk can include but are not limited to:
- Pain in the extremities. When a patient herniates a disk in their lower back (lumbar region) it’s typical to feel intense, burning pain in the buttocks, calf, or thigh. In extreme cases, the feet may be involved as well. However, if a patient herniates a disk in their neck (cervical spine), they’ll most likely suffer pain in the shoulders and arms. Patients describe this pain as “shooting”. It can lessen or worsen when changing positions.
- Numbness or a tingling sensation in the hands or feet. This is a common symptom of a herniated disk; numbness or tingling in the affected extremities can be uncomfortable, and is caused by impingement or inflammation of the affected nerves.
- Muscle weakness. Nerves provide strength to muscles, and therefore when they become inflamed by a herniated disk injury, patients may suffer muscle weakness and atrophy (deterioration of muscle).
What are some common causes?
Mayo Clinic states that when it comes to back injuries “disk herniation is most often the result of a gradual, aging-related wear and tear called disk degeneration”. Disk herniations are the most common form of back injury. However, we can also conclude from this medical evidence that herniated disks can be part of the normal aging process. Outside of an accident resulting in back and spine injuries, they are not always a cause for concern. A medical professional can advise a patient with certainty after diagnostic imaging such as an MRI or CT scan whether or not further medical intervention may be necessary for any type of back pain.
What happens when workers sustain injury on the job?
Workers who suffer a back injury may find themselves facing lost wages. Without an experienced Personal Injury lawyer representing them, these workers must survive on workman’s compensation benefits throughout their recovery. As a result, their workplace accident may leave them in financial distress. This distress can turn to mental anguish, further isolating the victim from the life they once knew.
When does a back injury become “high risk”?
Despite disk degeneration being part and parcel of the aging process, there are several factors that put a percentage of the population at a higher risk. Outside of accidents, most people can’t remember exactly how they sustained their back injury.
As a result, the risk factors that physicians often look at are:
- Excess weight gain. Being overweight (and lack of exercise) puts extra stress on the disks of the lumbar region of the spine. Thus, there’s a higher risk for disk herniation. Usually, this can be relieved with proper exercise or targeted physical therapy for the lumbar spine.
- Occupational hazards. The percentage of the population with physically demanding jobs are those with the highest risk for disk herniation. Thus, jobs that require heavy lifting, pushing, pulling, and bending all come with the risk of back injury. Sometimes, work accidents that cause a direct hit to the spine cause disk herniation.
What are the complications of back injuries post accident?
The spinal cord doesn’t extend into the lumbar region. It’s just below the waist where the spinal cord veers off into a group of nerve roots (“cauda equina”). Furthermore, if an injury such as a disk herniation is severe enough, it may compress these nerve roots and emergency surgery may be necessary for decompression.
If patients experience worsening weakness or paralysis, they should contact their physician immediately. In the worst case scenarios, patients should go straight to the ER.
Worsening symptoms that should not be ignored include but are not limited to:
- Pain, weakness, muscle atrophy in affected extremities
- Bowel or bladder dysfunction. People who experience a level of paralysis may find their bladder or bowel control is lessened. This is due to compression of the nerve roots in the spine. Difficulty or inability to urinate may also be a symptom that requires emergency medical attention.
- Saddle anesthesia. This phenomenon is causes progressive loss of function. It affects the areas of the body that one uses when sitting on a “saddle”: inner thighs, the area around the buttocks, and the back of the legs.
What are other common back injuries to be aware of?
Other back injuries that can cause extreme pain and require immediate medical attention:
- Spondylolithesis injuries usually occur in the low back (lumbar region). These could be strains, sprains, but can also be broken vertebrae (without spinal cord involvement). Normally after receiving treatment, a patient recovers from these injuries.
- Cervical Radiculopathy injuries usually occur in the cervical spine (neck region). Injuries that cause disks to rupture or bone to degenerate are usually the cause. Although, in young people, accidents that cause disks to rupture can compress nerve roots. These injuries can leave the victim in extreme pain.
Spinal Cord Injuries
In the worst case scenarios, these injuries can cause quadriplegia in victims. Whether due to a direct blow to the spine or broken vertebrae, SCI are extremely dangerous. Nonetheless, when caught early, doctors may be able to restore a moderate amount of sensation to the limbs. Using new technology such as spinal cord stimulators, there hope that those who sustain serious spinal cord trauma will recover quality of life.
Surgery is not always necessary. However, in cases of Spinal Cord Injury, surgical intervention can be life saving.
What are treatments for back injuries?
Finally, in most cases, back injuries are treatable. Strains, sprains, and muscle stiffness treatment is a combination of medication and physical therapy. Herniated disks are monitored by a specialist. Surgical intervention for disk herniation is only necessary when distressing symptoms arise.
Accident victims may have to go to great lengths achieve pain relief after an accident. From prescription pain medication to undergoing surgical procedures. Patients will try anything to achieve pain relief. Back and spine injuries prevent patients from living a full life. It’s the goal, on the legal side, to restore that quality of life through adequate compensation.
Any medical symptoms always require a doctor’s visit. One should never rely on internet publications in making important medical decisions. This article’s intention is not to replace the advice of a doctor, but supplement professional medical advice. Shaked Law Firm is a Personal Injury law firm in Miami, Florida offering the most experience in Spinal Cord Injury accident representation.