The spinal column runs through the center of the back. Inside is the spinal cord, which holds the nerves responsible for communicating messages from the brain to other parts of the body. The spine also includes vertebrae, which make up the backbone and are separated by discs. Spanning out from the spinal column are numerous muscles, ligaments, tendons and other soft tissue. All of these components work together to allow the range of movement and functionality found only in humans.
Although the human back is very strong and limber under normal conditions, it is also prone to injury. In fact, 80 percent of all people will suffer some type of back injury during their lifetime. Car accidents are the second most common cause of back injuries in the United States, accounting for over 40 percent of all back injuries annually. Almost $90 billion is spent each year treating back injuries in the U.S.
Common Car Accident Back Injuries
Back injuries caused by car accidents vary in severity from strains and sprains to spinal cord injuries that can cause paralysis and even death.
The back injuries most frequently suffered in car accidents include:
- Strains and sprains – A strain occurs when a muscle or ligament stretches or tears. A sprain happens when a tendon stretches or tears. The violent impact of a car accident can cause one or more strains or sprains to the back.
- Disc injuries – Between each vertebra in the spine is a spongy disc with a hard shell. Under normal circumstances these discs serve as cushions between the vertebrae, allowing for movement and flexion of the spine. If the outer shell is cracked, the inside core can escape, causing a herniated or bulging disc. That, in turn, can cause injury to nearby nerves or to the spinal cord itself.
- Compression fracture – The bones of the spine are very strong. However, all of the bones in the body become more fragile with age. A compression fracture, therefore, is more common in someone who is older. A compression fracture occurs when trauma to the spine causes a small crack or slit in a bone in the spine. A compression fracture often worsens over time if left untreated and can cause deformity of the spine.
- Paralysis – If the nerves in the spinal cord are damaged in a car accident, paralysis can result. Paralysis refers to the loss of motor and sensory function in a muscle or group of muscles. The nerves found in the upper back control the upper body, while those in the lower back control the lower body. An injury to the upper back can cause quadriplegia (tetraplegia), or the loss of function in all four limbs. Extreme damage to the spinal cord can even result in death.
Treatment for Back Injuries
How a back injury is treated depends on the location and severity of the injury. Strains and sprains are usually treated with muscle relaxants, pain medication and anti-inflammatory medications. Chiropractic care may also be used to treat a strain or sprain. Depending on the location of the strain or sprain, a victim can typically expect to heal within a few months to a year.
Disc injury victims may be given some of the same medications as a strain or sprain patient. In addition, steroid injections, physical therapy and at-home traction may be used to reduce a bulging disc. If conservative treatment is unsuccessful, then surgery may be warranted to remove and replace the damaged disc. Surgery may also be indicated for the victim of a compression fracture to prevent more serious damage to the spinal cord itself and to prevent deformation of the spine.
At the present time there is no cure for paralysis. Once a nerve has been damaged to the point where paralysis occurs, there is no way to replace or repair the nerve. Although medical professionals are working on ways to regenerate nerves or repair damaged nerves, for the time being, treatment of paralysis focuses on providing mobility and increasing the overall quality of life for the patient.
Suffered a Back Injury in a Washington State Car Crash? Get Legal Help Today
If you have suffered a back injury in a Yakima car accident, you could be entitled to compensation. Along with the physical and emotional pain that a back injury causes, it can also cause severe financial hardship for the victim and the victim’s family.
At Mariano Morales Law, we help back injury victims get the compensation they deserve for their car accident injuries. We represent victims of car accidents in the Yakima Valley and Tri-Cities (Richland, Pasco and Kennewick), as well as Wenatchee, Grant County and Chelan County areas.
Contact the Yakima car accident lawyers at Mariano Morales Law for a free initial consultation about your back injury. Call us now at (509) 972-0493 or fill out our online contact form. We know how to deal with insurance companies by preparing the strongest case possible.