Back Injuries Are No Joke
Sometimes on television shows or in movies, back pain and injuries are played for laughs. But it’s not amusing if you’ve had an accident and now can’t work—especially if bills are piling up and you’re in pain.
The truth is, back pain is fairly common if you’re over a certain age, or if you do too much while having fun or performing household repairs. But if you’ve been in a car crash, fallen at work, or seem to have more back problems rather than fewer of them after surgery, you are likely dealing with something more significant than a temporary muscle strain.
If you’re experiencing real pain and difficulties with everyday life because of someone else’s suspected negligence, you know that the pain is real and is no joke. Educating yourself about the different kinds of back injuries and their causes can help you understand your next step.
What Are the Most Common Back Injuries?
The back is a marvel of balance and construction, but it can be quite vulnerable to injury. If the bones, disks, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves are not all working properly, you will likely suffer pain, range-of-motion limitations, and may even experience paralysis. Back injuries are usually one or more of the following types:
- Injuries to the spinal cord. Did you know around 17,000 people suffer a spinal cord injury every year in the U.S.? The most frequent reason a spinal cord injury occurs is a car accident. Spinal cord damage can be severe and lifelong.
- Herniated disk. Damage to the cushion that separates each bony disk from another is called a herniated disk, “slipped” disk, or perhaps a bulging disk. Surgery is not guaranteed to fix the problem, and sometimes it makes the pain worse. Many kinds of accidents, including falls or trying to lift something too heavy for you, can cause a herniated disk. Blunt force trauma can also be responsible for this painful problem.
- A fracture in any part of your back can be extremely serious. Many kinds of accidents or situations can fracture part of your back, including falls, blunt force trauma, and car crashes. Crashes can produce many different kinds of fractures, including compression fractures, flexion distraction fractures, transverse process fractures, dislocation fractures, and axial bursts.
- Back sprains and strains (soft tissue damage). Soft tissue damage can occur for a number of reasons and can be quite painful. Inadequate rest, treatment, or therapy can exacerbate the situation, resulting in long-term disability and pain.
- This injury is the slipping of one vertebra onto another and causes great pain. Many types of accidents or trauma can cause it to happen.
How Does Someone Diagnose My Back Injury?
If your back is injured, the usual diagnostic tools include:
- X-Rays. X-rays can detect fractures and certain spine abnormalities. They are often used in conjunction with MRIs and CT scans.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan (MRI). MRIs are useful when it comes to diagnosing nerve damage, herniated disks, and some kinds of soft tissue damage.
- Computer Axial Tomography Scan (CT Scan or CAT Scan). CT scans are useful for diagnosing damage to the spinal cord and disks, especially disk ruptures. Such a scan also can calculate the degree and severity of a vertebral fracture.
What Kinds of Treatments Are Used for Back Injuries?
Treatments for back injuries range from heat, ice, and painkillers to major surgery:
- Pain medication. If your injury is of a “weekend warrior” type and not severe, non-narcotic pain relievers (ibuprofen and similar) are often indicated, along with rest and other localized treatments, such as heat or ice. Narcotic pain relievers that often contain a form of codeine are intended only for much more serious situations or for post-surgical pain.
- Chiropractic care and massage (soft tissue injuries). Mild soft tissue damage can often be treated with rest, non-narcotic pain relievers, physical therapy, chiropractic treatments, and massage therapy.
If your back injury is more severe, a number of surgical procedures may be called for:
- The least-invasive surgical procedure and often the first choice of surgeons, microdiscectomy removes damaged disk material in an effort to stop pain.
- This procedure is a minimally-invasive surgery that uses a micro-camera for diagnosing and treating pinched nerves, and also for identifying vertebrae that may need to be fused.
- Kyphoplasty and percutaneous vertebroplasty. Something that can be most easily described as bone “cement” is injected into damaged vertebra, making it more durable, strong, and less painful.
- Spinal fusion. Spinal fusion means that two or more vertebrae get fused together, strengthening the area and, hopefully, reducing pain.
- Artificial disk replacement. If a disk/disks are so severely damaged that other ways of healing or fixing the problem are not an option, the damaged disk(s) can be replaced with a prosthetic artificial disk.
- A small portion of damaged vertebrae known as the lamina is removed. Other damaged material may also be removed to aid in pain relief and speed recovery.
All of these surgeries cost a sizeable amount of money if you do not have health insurance. A laminectomy can cost more than $100,000. In cases of negligence, medical costs are one kind of expense for which you can pursue reimbursement in a suit.
Back injuries can happen for many reasons, but they are most likely to occur:
- At work. Workplace injuries affect over 600,000 persons yearly in the United States, creating ongoing pain and disability.
- In car crashes. The many different ways your back can be twisted or sustain a blow in an accident mean many more ways in which you can be injured. Sometimes these injuries are not obvious for days or even weeks after a crash.
- In cases where injuries are made worse by surgery. Surgery can be a useful, legitimate fix for some back injuries. But some cases exist where back surgery is inappropriate and unnecessary. A 2011 study reported that 17 percent of patients with back and neck pain were told that they needed surgery when they did not. Spinal fusions of multiple vertebrae, such as when four or more are joined, has been implicated.
When our backs are strong and uninjured, our lives can feel nearly perfect. But an injury can turn all of that on its head. Even what is termed a small injury can affect our lives significantly. Get the help you need if your back is damaged and you think negligence might be involved.
You have a back injury. How can we help you?
At the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler, we understand the enormous financial and emotional ramifications of a back injury. Whether the injury was due to the negligence of a motorist, a medical professional, a property owner, or an employer, we work diligently with medical experts and life-care planners to determine the projected lifetime cost of a back injury. Then we pursue full and fair compensation from the responsible parties, whether that means a jury trial or settlement negotiations.
Baltimore-based attorney Steve Heisler provides experienced and thorough legal representation. Initial consultations are always free, and you will owe no fees unless we succeed in obtaining compensation for your injuries. Use the online contact form or call (410) 625-4878 for more information about how Steve can help you and your family.