Nearly all of us suffer back pain at some point in time. In this country,
back pain is second only to colds as the main reason people see their
primary care doctors. In studies that add up lost productivity of American
workers and medical costs show that backaches are the most expensive chronic
illness citizens between the ages of 30 and 60
Fortunately, most back injuries, even from accidents, tend be minor. With rest, the passage of time usually helps back injury sufferers regain their customary level of activity. Most back injuries are likely due to strains and sprains of muscles and ligaments. Thus, not all back injuries are serious spinal cord injuries.
However, injury that threatens the spinal cord gives the greatest cause for concern. Compression or squeezing of the spinal cord because of an accident is an emergency, and may require immediate surgery to correct the dangerous condition and prevent nerve damage and possible paralysis.
Most back injuries don’t cut the spinal cord which would, of course, result in death. A back injury is more likely to cause vertebral compression or fractures, which could squeeze and crush the spine’s nerves. Such back injuries can range from a good result – such as a complete recovery – to a catastrophic injury and result such as paralysis: be it quadriplegia (from neck down), paraplegia (from waist down), or hemiplegia (one side of the body).
Many times people who suffer from back pain may have a degenerative condition existing that pre-exists an accident or new injury. Some common pre-existing, possibly age-related, conditions are:
- Spondylosis, also referred to as degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis, which is a condition of normal aging. Bone spurs (osteophytes) form on the edges of the spinal vertebrae disks and the facet joints where the vertebrae link to each other. These bone spurs commonly result in stiffness, loss of range of motion, and discomfort. Symptoms are similar to those of disk herniation, but they tend to be less sudden and more long-term and intermittent. If bone spurs form between vertebrae, they can irritate the adjacent nerve roots, producing such symptoms as pain in a limb and, less often, loss of sensation or weakness in the area served by that nerve root. If a bone spur forms in the spinal canal, the result can be cervical spondylotic myelopathy or spinal stenosis. Spondylosis and disk herniation may also occur together and both may contribute to a person’s difficulties.
- Sciatica: characterized by pain in the lower back and gluteal region. This pain can radiate down one or both legs into the thigh, calf, ankle, and foot. Genuine sciatica occurs when pain travels below the knee. Sciatic pain comes from nerve compression at the base of the spine. It’s a type of radiculopathy. Sciatic pain or sciatica can be described as sharp, dull, burning, tingly, numb, continuous, or intermittent and usually affects only one side of the body. It can radiate the entire length of the nerve, in some cases all the way down to the toes
- Arthritis affects millions of Americans, some 80% of people over the age of 55. It is estimated that by the year 2020, over 60 million people will suffer from this often-disabling problem. Arthritis is actually a term for over 100 rheumatoid disorders. Arthritis can affect the spine, and occurs there when the cartilage in the joints is worn down as a result of wear and tear, aging, injury or misuse.
It is tricky for a lawyer to represent a back injury accident victim who
already suffers from a pre-existing or degenerative back condition, such
as spondylosis, sciatica or arthritis: How do we prove, medically, that
there is a new back injury from a recent accident?
One tip is to suggest that the accident victim continue to see the doctor(s) that treated him or her before the new back injury. Of course, the patient must tell the doctor about the new, recent back injury. It is for the doctor to say if there is something new or different injury present or some worsening of the patient’s condition. An experienced personal injury lawyer will compare medical records from before and after the accident. It might also be helpful to have the doctor repeat some of the diagnostic tests done before the recent accident and back injury, and compare them with the older test results. Just know that insurance companies are skeptical and fight especially hard against injury claims where there are prior back problems.
For your serious personal injury, you need legal representation from a qualified personal injury attorney. Contact us for your free consultation.
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