Lumbar Spine Injuries
Following a car, slip-and-fall, or another traumatic event, you might suffer from lower back pain and other symptoms. These types of symptoms might indicate you've suffered an injury to the lumbar region of your spine or vertebral column and should not be ignored. Lumbar spine injuries can worsen without prompt treatment and could permanently affect your motor functioning and cause other problems. If you've suffered injuries to your lumbar spine in a motor vehicle collision or another accident caused by someone else, you might be entitled to recover compensation for your injuries and related losses.Causes of Lumbar Spine Injuries
Injuries to the lumbar spine can occur when the vertebrae, ligaments, nerves, spinal discs, or the spinal cord itself are damaged.
Traumatic injuries to the lumbar region can occur because of a sudden blow to your lower back that causes one or more of your lumbar vertebrae to dislocate, be crushed, fractured, or compressed. In a car accident, you can also suffer lumbar injuries from being violently jerked about, causing your lower back to twist abnormally. Lumbar injuries can also occur from intentional acts, including assaults, gunshots, or stabbings.
Lumbar spine injuries can also be caused by nontraumatic events, including age-related degeneration, underlying disease, infections, or inflammation.
After you suffer a lumbar injury, you can suffer secondary damage in the following days or weeks caused by swelling, bleeding, and the accumulation of fluid around your spinal cord.
In the U.S., the most common causes of lumbar spine injuries include the following:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Violent acts (gunshots, assaults, and knife wounds)
- Athetics and recreational activities
- Diseases (osteoporosis, arthritis, cancer, and infections)
Lumbar spine injuries can vary and can be complex. Certain types of lumbar spine injuries are more common following accidents.Muscle Strain
Muscle strain in the lumbar region is very common following slip-and-fall accidents and auto collisions. This type of injury can occur along with other lumbar injuries. The lower back commonly absorbs strain produced by day-to-day movements. In an accident, these muscles can be overstressed and inflamed. Muscle strain in the lower back can cause the following types of symptoms:
- Muscle spasms
- Pain when making certain movements
- Discomfort that increases after engaging in strenuous activities
Other soft tissues in the lumbar region such as tendons and ligaments can also be injured and contribute to the pain and discomfort.Spinal Disc Injuries
When compared to the thoracic and cervical regions of the spine, the lumbar region is not as well protected. Because of this, it is easier for the discs in the lumbar area to be damaged. Motor vehicle collisions and fall accidents can cause lumbar discs to rupture or herniate. The discs are made out of cartilage with a gel-like center that cushions the bones of the vertebral column. When a disc herniates, it tears. The gel substance can also enter the canal surrounding the spinal cord and cause irritation. It can also irritate surrounding spinal nerves. Other spinal disc issues can occur, including slipped discs or bulging discs. These types of injuries can cause ongoing pain that radiates down the leg from the lower back and limit your ability to move normally.Damage to the Spinal Nerves
During the impact of a collision or fall, one or more spinal nerves can be damaged. In most cases, the sciatic nerve is the spinal nerve in the lumbar area to be damaged. It is the longest nerve in the human body, It originates from the base of the spinal column and extends down through the legs. If you suffer an injury to the sciatic nerve, it can cause you to continually adjust your posture to compensate for the irritation. However, these movements can place additional stress on your lower back and could cause further damage to your spinal joints or discs. Sciatic nerve injuries typically cause pain that radiates down from your lower back through your legs. You might also experience tingling or burning sensations.Facet Joint Injuries
Between each of the vertebrae in your spinal column, there are facet joints that connect the bones and allow you to move. If your facet joints are damaged in an accident, they can cause pain and other problems. Facet joint injuries can cause the following symptoms:
- Pain in the lower back in a specific area
- Pain that radiates to the lower body if a nerve near the damaged facet joint is irritated
- Reduced range of motion
The vertebrae in the lumbar region can also be fractured or damaged in a traumatic event. The bones can be forcefully shifted out of place, crushed, or fractured. This can reduce the stability of your vertebral column. In some cases, bone splinters can enter the cavity that houses the spinal cord and damage it. If a bone piece pierces your spinal cord, it could cause additional problems.Lumbar Spinal Cord Injuries
In severe cases, the spinal cord in the lumbar region can be injured. A lumbar spinal cord injury can be partial or complete. A partial injury is a partial tear of the spinal cord, while a complete injury is a complete severing of the spinal cord.
The effects of a lumbar spinal cord injury depend on whether it is partial or complete and its location. You have five lumbar vertebrae, including L1 to L5, arranged in order from highest to lowest. With a complete spinal cord injury, you could lose sensation from the site of the injury on down and be permanently paralyzed.
Even if you do not suffer a complete spinal cord injury, you could still suffer paralysis without prompt treatment. The spinal cord can swell, and the pressure can cause additional damage that could result in paraplegia. For this reason, it's critical to get prompt medical care to prevent your injuries from worsening.Diagnosis of Lumbar Spine Injuries
When you go to the hospital with a suspected injury to your lumbar spine, the doctors will use multiple tools to diagnose your injuries. You will first undergo a clinical evaluation in which you will be asked multiple questions. The doctor will then order imaging tests to obtain a picture of the region and might order lab tests to rule out viral infections.
It can be frightening to undergo the diagnostic process for lower back injuries following an accident, but it's important to get prompt treatment to prevent additional injuries.
During the clinical evaluation, your doctor might ask questions about the following things:
- Any history of back injuries or pain
- Location of the pain
- Severity of the pain on a one to 10 scale
- Type of accident you were involved in
- Area of impact
- If it was a car accident, the relative speed of the vehicles and direction of travel
- Your symptoms
These types of questions help the doctor to make an initial determination about your injury and figure out what tests to order and what might need to be included in your treatment plan. Be honest about everything you are asked.
Getting help immediately is important to help you recover faster and document the severity and nature of your injuries. If you don't seek immediate medical treatment, the insurance company can try to blame your injuries on a different event and make it harder for you to recover compensation for your losses.
Following the initial evaluation, the doctor will likely order diagnostic tests. These might include computerized tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and X-rays. These imaging tests allow your doctor to look for abnormalities in the lumbar region and identify the location, type, and severity of your injuries.
A few days after your injury, the doctor will likely complete a thorough neurological exam. This is to identify any functional limitations you have suffered because of your injuries. Doctors wait to complete the neurological exam to allow time for some of the swelling to go down so the doctor can determine the severity of your injury, your likelihood of recovery, and the possible treatment outcomes you might achieve.Treatment of Lumbar Spine Injuries
Your doctor will create a treatment plan based on the type and severity of your injuries. Some of the types of treatment that might be recommended include the following:
- Physcial therapy to help you gain as much independence as possible, increase your range of motion, and recover some of your ability to move
- Pain management, including over-the-counter medications and/or prescription pain medications, to alleviate pain symptoms
- Epidural injections to reduce inflammation and pain
- Surgery, including discectomy, fusion, or other procedures
If you suffered lumbar spine injuries in a car accident, fall, or another type of event caused by the actions of someone else, you should reach out to the experienced injury lawyers at the law firm of the Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC. We can review what happened to you and explain your legal rights. Call us for a free case evaluation at 1-866-966-5240.