doctor evaluating a patient's back

Back Injuries are the Most Common Injuries

Whether you’ve been involved in a car collision, a slip and fall or you were injured on the job, back injuries are very common. They can also be some of the worst injuries a person can have.

Sections of the Back

The purpose of the back is to provide stability, allow bending, standing, twisting and also protect the spinal cord. The back is divided into four sections for medical purposes:

*Cervical spine (neck)

*Thoracic spine (mid back)

*Lumbar spine (low back)

*Sacroiliac joint aka SI joint (goes from below the waist line to the tail bone)

Injury to the Thoracic Spine is Rare

With back injuries, the mid back (thoracic spine) is more rare than any of the other areas of the back. I have seen injuries to the thoracic spine, but most of the time it’s a fractured vertebrate (individual back bone). While this is a painful condition, it usually heals very well and the patient does not need extensive care to treat it. On occasion, the injury is more severe and the vertebrate may have been crushed due to the compression forces of a collision or fall. When that happens, there is a procedure the doctors can perform which stabilizes the bone by basically inserting glue and putting it back together. However, as I said, it’s pretty rare to see mid back injuries.

More Common Injury Sites Include the Cervical Spine, Lumbar Spine and the SI Joints

Injuries to these areas of the back can have a wide variety of presentations and can be anything from annoying to excruciatingly painful. It’s pretty rare to see fractures of the vertebrates in these sections of the back, but it is very common for people to sprain or strain their musculature, tendons and ligaments around the discs and to injure the discs themselves. When the muscles are affected, the diagnosis is most commonly a sprain or strain. While that sounds pretty tame, the reality is that those injuries often result in tearing of the muscle and thus pain and instability. If the muscles are torn badly enough, it can result in permanent injury to the spine.

Disc Injuries

Disc injuries involve actual damage to the discs themselves and this can have a lifelong effect upon a person. The disc separates the vertebrates and acts like a shock absorber for the spine. When they are injured, the ability to absorb stress and pressure is reduced. The discs can end up having a bulge (where the edge of the disc protrudes out – this can also happen as we age) to an annular tear (where the annulus of the disc is torn causing pain due to the nerves running through the discs) to a herniation (where the center of the disc is ruptured and actually leaks into the outer layer and beyond).

Conservative Ways to Treat a Back Injury

If you have a back injury, it’s crucial that you get treated by a doctor to determine what exactly has occurred in your spine. Doctors will take x-rays initially and try to see if there is damage that way, but really the best diagnosing tool for back injuries is the MRI. An MRI can show very small sections of individual discs to see if damage is present. The most common procedure for doctors to follow is physical therapy and/or chiropractic care and/or massage to help with recovery. These are the most conservative measures doctors follow first before moving to more complex procedures.

Treating the Back with More Invasive Procedures

More complex procedures include performing injections or rhizotomies (literally obliterating nerves to stop the pain signals) to the last option of surgery. Surgery is not common because doctors simply do not like to operate on the spine if they don’t have to. I generally see patients end up in extreme pain with serious damage findings on MRI before surgery is recommended. As you can see, with these injuries the types of treatment that can be provided is pretty broad. It’s important to have a doctor treating you who has experience with injuries caused by trauma such as a car collision. From my observations, the average family practitioner does not have the necessary experience to know what treatment methods work for these types of injuries.

In addition to having a doctor who knows what they are doing with these injuries, you also need an attorney who is experienced with them as well. This way you know your attorney understands what you are going through too. Our firm handles all types of injuries caused by other people’s negligence and we deal with back injuries regularly. Give our office a call at 719-633-6620 for a free consultation.