Back Injury

Back pain, whether chronic or caused by an injury, is the leading cause of lost work days. A back injury, in particular, can range from a minor muscle strain to a permanent disc injury. 

Sudden back injuries are often debilitating. You may be left unable to sit, stand, or walk without pain ranging from aching to stabbing. As a result, you may need bed rest, physical therapy, or even surgery. You may also require a temporary or permanent caretaker to help you perform tasks you would normally handle around your home.

What Is the Structure of Your Back?

What Is the Structure of Your Back?

Back injuries affect the many different structures found in your back and spine. The spine includes 24 vertebrae, all of which are defined by their locations and functions. 

First, there are the seven cervical vertebrae found in your neck. Your ribs attach to another 12 vertebrae (the thoracic vertebrae) in your upper and mid-back. And the five lumbar vertebrae sit below your ribs and above your hips. Each vertebra has a load-bearing body with several thin protrusions called “processes.” 

Ligaments hold your vertebrae together to form the flexible spinal column, and they allow it to carry your head and body. It transfers your body weight to your hips, allowing you to stand and walk. And at the same time, its segmented construction allows you to twist and bend your back.

Discs sit between adjacent pairs of vertebrae. Each has a tough outer ring called an annulus fibrosus that encircles an interior gel called the nucleus pulposus. Together, the discs cushion the vertebrae by absorbing shocks when you walk, run, or jump. They also prevent the vertebrae from grinding against each other.

Lastly, the spinal cord runs through the spinal canal, a passageway that runs the length of the spine and protects the nerves that connect your brain to your body. Unfortunately, however, many of the structures in the spine pass near the spinal canal. And when they get damaged, they can injure the spinal cord, compressing or severing it entirely.

What Are the Common Causes of Back Injuries?

Several forms of physical trauma can cause back injuries, such as:

Blunt Trauma

Blunt trauma occurs when something strikes your back but does not form an open wound. For example, in a slip and fall accident, your feet lose traction, and you fall backward. As your back strikes the ground, it can suffer blunt force injuries. You can also suffer blunt force trauma when a car crashes into your back during a pedestrian accident.

Penetrating Trauma

Penetrating trauma occurs when an object pierces through your back. It may tear into the soft tissues or even penetrate the spinal canal, compressing or severing it. These injuries are often sustained during an assault, as a bullet or knife blade can travel between the vertebrae.


When your back stretches, bends, or twists unnaturally, hyperextension occurs. Car accidents are a common cause of these kinds of injuries. During a collision, your body whips around under the sheer force of the crash, which can stretch or even tear the soft tissues.

An example of hyperextension is a whiplash injury, which happens when your head whips forward, and its weight stretches your neck. The vertebrae separate slightly, stretching the ligaments connecting them. As you come to rest, the ligaments pull the spine together with a snap that can crush its discs.

What Are Some Examples of Back Injuries?

Just as the causes for such injuries are numerous, back injuries themselves can take many forms. As they affect different structures in the back, they lead to a range of different symptoms and prognoses. 

Examples of back injuries you might experience due to a traumatic incident include the following:

Back Strain or Sprain

Several large muscles in your back anchor themselves via tendons to the spine, ribs, shoulder blades, collarbones, and pelvis. A strain happens when these muscles and tendons stretch when placed under stress. 

Symptoms of a back strain include things like:

  • Muscle pain and stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Swelling
  • Spasms

Back sprains happen when the forces applied to your back hyperextend the ligaments holding your spine together. 

With that said, some symptoms of a sprained back include the following:

  • Spine pain
  • Inflammation
  • Limited range of motion
  • Back instability

Mild sprains and strains usually heal in four to six weeks. But more severe instances may require several months of healing and rehabilitation to recover from. And even with rest and physical therapy, you may never recover full functionality.

Damaged Disc(s)

High compression forces applied to the discs in your spine can damage them in one of two ways. First, a herniated disc occurs when the nucleus pulposus pushes through a ruptured annulus fibrosus. 

The other outcome, a bulging disc, happens when the annulus fibrosus weakens without separating, causing it to bulge around its circumference. The deformed disc will pull the spine out of shape, destabilizing the back. The stressed muscles, tendons, and ligaments can, in turn, produce serious pain.

More importantly, the deformed disc can press on and damage the nerve roots branching from the spinal cord, causing symptoms such as:

  • Pain that radiates into the limbs
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Weakness
  • Loss of coordination

Doctors have very few options when it comes to treating a damaged disc. They can inject anti-inflammatories into the nerve roots to reduce the symptoms, or they can remove the disc altogether. They’ll either replace it with an artificial disc or fuse the surrounding vertebrae.

Fractured Vertebra

A fractured vertebra is the most dangerous back injury you can suffer. The bone fragments can compress or sever the spinal cord, thereby preventing the brain from communicating with the rest of the body. As a result, the victim suffers permanent and total paralysis below the level of the injury.

If the bone fragments compress the spinal cord, the victim will experience symptoms similar to that of nerve damage. They may experience muscle spasms, weakness, and a loss of sensation, along with issues regarding dexterity and mobility. 

Though they might regain some functionality as the brain rewires itself, they are likely to always experience some symptoms from their injury.

How To Pursue Back Injury Compensation

You can pursue compensation for injuries, back or otherwise, that were caused by another’s negligent or intentional actions. Proving negligence does not require proof of intent, but you do need to prove the other party failed to exercise reasonable care. 

In most situations, that means the other person knew or should have known that their actions created an unreasonable risk of injury. For example, you can prove liability for car crashes by showing that the other driver broke a traffic law.

In any case, a back injury can cause pain and weakness that prevents you from earning a living or caring for yourself. Contact Curiel & Runion Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers today for a free consultation to discuss your back injury and the compensation you can seek for it. For more information, contact a Phoenix injury lawyer at Curiel & Runion Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation today. You can reach us at (602) 595-5559.