Spinal injuries can arise out of a variety of traumatic events, but automobile accidents are a leading cause. The reason that injuries to the neck, back and spine are common in car accidents is that the impact during an accident strains the muscles and ligaments in the back, and the facet joints sustain the brunt of the force. Whiplash, compression fractures, disc herniation and lumbar spinal injury can result from this action, and can occur even in low-speed collisions, such as fender-benders.
A lumbar spinal injury (L1) is an injury to the top of the lower back and spine. These injuries may result from either a single event or acute microtrauma, or else they may occur due to repetitive microtrauma or ‘overuse injury’. Besides car accidents, lumbar spinal injuries commonly result from sports injuries and falls.
The same event can result in a differing severity of injury and outcome for different people. There are a number of risk factors that can influence whether or not someone sustains a lumbar spine injury as well as the extent of their injury, including age, pre-existing injury and general health. For example, someone who has softening of the bones or osteoporosis is more likely to sustain a lumber spine injury.
Recovery may also depend on which part of the lower back was injured. Injuries may affect the bone (fractures), ligaments (sprain), the discs (herniation) or muscles (strain). Injuries may also occur in different ways. A compression fracture is where a person’s bone collapsed upon itself, but in the case of a burst fracture, pieces of bone shatter outwards into the tissues around the spinal column. Among the most serious conditions is a fracture-dislocation, where the bone breaks and ligaments are torn, causing the bones to slide away from one another.
A car accident victim, athlete or any other person who has experienced a back injury or back pain should seek immediate medical diagnosis to help prevent further injury or worsening of their condition.
A lumbar sprain or herniated disc can cause persistent lower back pain or sciatica, and can be associated with a degenerative spinal disorder (or discognic low back pain). In such cases, one or multiple intervertebral discs can be the source of pain. Athletes and others who suffer chronic back pain due to a lumbar spine injury may find that they are no longer able to participate in sports, certainly not without worsening their condition. Often, a minor twist or injury can cause nerve irritation or injury, and swelling and pain.
Sufferers of a lumbar spinal injury generally find that their overall enjoyment in life is impacted due to ongoing pain, and that they are no longer able to carry out many activities that they were able to do, painlessly, before they became injured, particularly activities involving physical exertion or strength. Even those of us who are not athletes can worsen our injury and cause ourselves persistent pain when we attempt to perform actions such as lifting and housekeeping or home maintenance chores.
Strengthening exercises are particularly important in the prevention of future injury. The type of exercises that are most beneficial can depend on the type of activities commonly carried out by the injured person. For example, neck strengthening experiences are particularly important for football players, although abdominal and pelvic strengthening exercises can help anyone who has a lower back injury or pain. For someone who has suffered a lumbar spine injury, extension exercises can help decrease pain by restoring a person’s range of motion and the strength of their lower back, which then stabilizes the supporting structures of the lumbar spine.
Accident victims who have a pre-existing condition or back injury may still be entitled to accident benefits or damages if they are injured in a car accident or another event, that worsens their condition. For example, after a woman’s back and spinal injuries worsened due to multiple car accidents and she was denied compensation on the grounds that her injuries resulted from a pre-existing condition, the injured woman successfully sued her insurance companies in two separate actions, Monks v. Zurich Insurance Co. and Monks v. ING Insurance Company of Canada.
If you sustained a back or spinal injury in an accident caused by another person’s negligence, talk to an experienced spinal injury lawyer at Injury Lawyers of Ontario to find out about the strength of your case and what’s involved in obtaining owed compensation for your financial losses and suffering.