Injuries to the Spine, Back, or Neck from Auto Accidents or Other Causes
One of the worst injuries you can have is damage to your back or spine. The spine holds up your head, controls your hands and arms when you do chores, and keeps you walking, sitting, and standing. Back and spine injuries often cause lasting complications, making it difficult to do the things you love. Severe spinal injuries can cause paralysis.
Back and Spine Anatomy
The back itself is made up of nerves, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. Superficial, intermediate, and deep layers of muscle are all responsible for different types of movement. The back is also the location of the spine, a column of small bones called vertebrae. The spinal column provides support for the body and makes it easier to bend, turn, twist, and perform other movements. It also protects the spinal cord, a bundle of nerve fibers that transmit messages between the brain and other parts of the body, from damage.
The cervical spine—that is, the bones in the neck—supports the head and protects the nerves that run from the brain to other parts of the body. The vertebrae in the cervical spine are numbered C1 through C7. Injuries at the C1 and C2 level are often the most devastating, but they make up a small percentage of all the spinal injuries that occur each year. We’re more likely to see people with C4 and C5 injuries.
The thoracic spine, which has 12 vertebrae numbered T1 through T12, supports the upper back and provides protection for the lungs and heart. Because the ribs are attached to the thoracic vertebrae, we sometimes see people with broken ribs, which need time to heal. In some cases, we also see people with thoracic injuries requiring surgery.
The lumbar spine, known as the lower back, has five vertebrae numbered L1 through L5. Lumbar vertebrae are responsible for supporting the torso and head. Many of the injuries we see affect the lumbar spine. These injuries cause a wide range of complications, from bladder incontinence in some people to partial paralysis in others.
The sacrum sits at the bottom of the spine. During development, five separate vertebrae fuse together to form one bone. The sacrum connects the spine to the hip bones, supports the weight of the upper body, and joins together with the iliac bones to form the pelvic girdle.
The coccyx, commonly called the tailbone, is made up of several fused vertebrae that sit at the very end of the spine. This part of the spine provides support and stability when the body is in a sitting position. Like the sacrum, the coccyx is less likely to sustain trauma than the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar portions of the spine.
Types of Spine, Back, & Neck Injuries
- Herniated Disc
Spinal discs cushion and protect the vertebrae from damage. Each disc consists of a jelly-like material surrounded by a tough exterior. Disc herniation occurs when the jelly-like substance in the middle squeezes out through an opening in the exterior surface. Depending on the location of the herniation, this type of injury can make it difficult to play sports, do chores around the house, and continue earning a living.
- Vertebral Fracture
Vertebral fractures occur when a great amount of force causes one or more of the vertebrae to break. The term “broken neck” refers to a fracture of one or more cervical vertebrae. Fractures may cause severe back pain, making it difficult to get out of bed and do simple tasks. Some people with vertebral fractures also have trouble controlling their bowel and bladder function, which leads to embarrassing accidents. Hip and thigh pain, tingling, and numbness are also symptoms of vertebral fracture.
- Cervical Injuries
Injuries to the cervical spine (C1 to C7) can cause quadriplegia, which refers to paralysis or weakness of all four limbs. Living with quadriplegia is difficult, especially if it resulted from an accident caused by someone else’s carelessness. People with quadriplegia need help getting dressed, preparing meals, and performing basic activities of daily living. Some people with quadriplegia are on ventilators because they are no longer able to breathe on their own. When working with quadriplegic clients, we have consulted medical professionals to create “Life Care Plans” that set out the medical treatment that our client will need to lead a life that is as healthy and happy as possible.
- Thoracic Injuries
The ribcage does a good job of protecting the thoracic section of the spinal cord, so thoracic injuries are less common than other types of spinal cord injuries. Thoracic injuries, which occur between T1 and T12 of the spinal column, cause paraplegia, the medical term for paralysis or weakness of the legs. Like quadriplegia, paraplegia can have devastating effects on the victim. Nerve damage and loss of sensation may cause bowel and bladder incontinence or difficulty maintaining a normal sex life. The victim may also be deprived of the ability to work, causing significant financial strains and loss of income. All of these complications are not just hard on the victim, but they are also hard on the victim’s family.
- Lumbar Injuries
Lumbar injuries occur at the L1 to L5 level of the spinal column. Like thoracic injuries, lumbar injuries may make it difficult to hold down a job or participate in enjoyable activities. Sexual dysfunction and incontinence are among the most common complications of this type of injury. Severe lumbar injuries can cause paralysis, meaning that the person loses most or all control over his or her legs. Like with quadriplegia, we have consulted medical professionals to create Life Care Plans to ensure that our clients’ lives are as healthy and happy as circumstances permit.
- Sacral Injuries
Due to the location of the sacrum, a sacral injury usually results in sexual dysfunction and difficulty controlling the bladder or bowels. Sacral injuries may also cause paralysis or weakness of the legs and hips, making it extremely difficult to earn a living, especially for people who have always held jobs involving physical labor.
Common Causes Of Spine, Back, & Neck Injuries
Back and spine injuries typically involve a great amount of force. Any of the following can produce enough force for a serious injury to occur:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Falls from great heights
- Being hit with falling debris
- Colliding with a large object
Back and spine injuries may also be caused by violent attacks. If an attack occurs on commercial property, such as a parking garage or shopping mall, the victim may be able to make a claim based on negligent security.
Costs of Care for Spinal Injuries
Injury-related expenses include emergency treatment, hospitalization, physical therapy, occupational therapy, in-home nursing care, and the cost of medical supplies and equipment. The costs can easily run into the millions of dollars. These costs can be devastating for victims and their families, especially if insurance coverage runs out or an insurance company refuses to cover needed care.
What We Do For Our Clients
Working with people who have experienced a back injury is difficult. It’s difficult for our clients, and it’s difficult for us. The reason it’s so difficult is that the effects of the injury can linger for a long, long time. But what we can do, and what we have done, is make the party responsible for the injury pay to take care of our client for the rest of his or her life. While we cannot undo the past, we can prepare our clients for a better future.