At Hagelgans & Veronis, LLP., we represent back injury cases all the time. To help people understand how a back injury is unique compared to other injuries, we’ve tackled common client questions about back injuries in Pennsylvania.
What does a back injury feel like?
Car accidents often lead to back injuries. Regardless of severity, the body reacts the same way following an accident by releasing adrenaline and endorphins in the brain.
This biological reaction to stress is a defense mechanism and may limit a person’s ability to feel or detect pain immediately following an injury.
Symptoms of a back injury include (but are not limited to):
- Pain or discomfort that worsens with basic movement
- Muscle cramping or spasms (involuntary muscle contractions)
- Decreased range of motion
- Difficulty walking, bending forward, twisting sideways, or standing straight
A back injury can reveal itself days or even weeks after the original trauma or immediately after the adrenaline and endorphins wear off.
Everybody is different; there’s no single way to determine when and to what degree a back injury will present itself.
How does a back injury happen?
The back is an intricate structure of bone and muscle; it’s supported by cartilage, tendons, and ligaments, sometimes referred to as soft tissue.
A strain is an injury to the muscle or tendon (tendons connect muscle to bone). A back strain occurs when the muscles or tendons that support the spine are twisted, overstretched, or torn.
A sprain is an injury to the ligaments (ligaments connect two or more bones at a joint and prevent overextension). A back sprain occurs when a ligament stretches or tears.
Strains and sprains are common back injuries that can occur for a number of reasons. For example, chronic strain usually results from repetitive or prolonged movement of the back muscles or tendons—for example, improperly and repeatedly lifting heavy equipment on a construction site.
A sprain, however, often results from a sudden fall, twist, or a blow to the body that forces a joint out of its regular position, thereby stretching the ligaments beyond their maximum.
Other factors that might impact how severe a back injury will be include:
- Excessive curving of the lower back
- Being overweight
- Poor physical strength
- Playing extreme sports
What should I do if I have a back injury?
A recent study published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings ranked the top reasons Americans go see the doctor. Back problems ranked third behind joint disorders, like osteoporosis (second), and skin disorders, like acne (first).
If you suspect you have a back injury, go see a doctor right away, especially after a car accident.
Typically, a back-injury evaluation is performed without special tests or X-rays. A person’s medical history and symptoms are usually enough to make an accurate diagnosis.
However, more serious back injuries may require X-rays to ensure symptoms aren’t signaling something else, like a broken bone or herniated (bulging) disk.
When should I see a doctor if I think I have a back injury?
Because back injuries are somewhat illusive, it’s always best to seek help from a medical professional at the first sign of symptoms or immediately after an accident . Neglecting a back injury can result in worse or prolonged symptoms.
Regardless of severity, you should always go see a doctor after a car accident. A back injury may not appear right away or with symptoms. This is why it’s important to seek help—you may not know you’re injured.
Furthermore, accurate documentation will aid eligibility for compensation if you decide to bring a case against a negligent driver or other responsible party.
Is a back injury the same as a spinal cord injury?
Back injuries are not the same type of injury as a spinal cord injury.
For example, a person can “break his back” without sustaining a spinal cord injury. It’s possible for the bones around the cord to be injured without affecting the spinal cord. In this case, the person may not experience paralysis after the bones have healed.
More specifically, a spinal cord injury is suffered when damage to the spinal cord results in a loss of function, like being unable to walk, or the inability to feel sensation.
Conversely, back injuries generally don’t cause paralysis. What’s more, paralysis isn’t always the result of a severed or damaged spine. For example, traumatic brain injuries can also cause paralysis.
What happens if I hurt my back at work?
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, in 2015, the leading type of injury for all industries in Pennsylvania was sprains and strains. In the same year there were 166,102 non-fatal occupational injuries reported to the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation; 12.5 percent of those injuries involved back injuries.
If you suffer a back injury at work, remember these three steps:
- Report the injury to your employer immediately—you have 21 days to do this.
- Seek medical treatment—documentation of the injury will help safeguard your benefits.
- Call 717-295-7009 to speak with the workers’ compensation attorneys at Hagelgans & Veronis, LLP.
Under Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation law, you may be eligible to receive some or all of the following benefits:
- Lost Wages: these benefits depend on the severity of the injury and how it affects your ability to earn a living.
- Medical Bills: your employer is responsible for any “reasonable” medical expenses (doctor’s bills, medication, equipment, etc.) if you are injured on the job.
- Permanent/Partial Loss of Member or Body as a Whole: compensation is awarded to injury victims who suffer a partial or complete loss of a limb, or who suffer a permanent loss or impairment to the whole body.
- Temporary/Partial Benefits: these benefits help people who are injured and still able to work but not in the same capacity as before the accident.
- Death: If an employee is killed on the job or suffers wrongful death resulting from an occupational injury, the surviving spouse and/or children are entitled to death benefits and up to $6,000 for funeral expenses.
How do I pay for back injury treatments?
If you suffer a back injury because of another person’s negligent or careless behavior (behind the wheel or otherwise), you can file a claim to help pay for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Remember, back injuries may not appear immediately following an accident; it is always best to seek medical expertise before excluding the possibility of injury to ensure protection for yourself and your future.
If you still have questions about back injuries, the injury lawyers at Hagelgans & Veronis, LLP. can give you the answers.