Back and Neck Injuries

What are some common types of back injuries? What kind of treatment do I need?

Back injuries are dangerous and painful work injuries. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA), back injuries are extremely common—second only to hand injuries. At the center of the body, the back is vulnerable to severe injuries like:

  • Strain
  • Bulging, herniated and slipped discs
  • Fractured vertebrae
  • Pinched nerves
  • Spinal cord damage

Low back muscles allow movement and bending of the spine, but they are prone to sprains and strains. A muscle strain happens when the muscle stretches too far or is torn. A strained muscle (or “pulled muscle”) can cause inflammation and spasms that make even small movements very painful. A lumbar sprain happens when ligaments (the tissue that connects bones together) stretch too far. Symptoms range from a moderate pain to sharp, throbbing low back pain that stops you in your tracks.

Once you discover or begin to experience the pain, it is important to see a doctor. The doctor may prescribe pain medication plus anti-inflammatory drugs or oral steroids to reduce swelling, muscle relaxers. Physical therapy is often prescribed to aid recovery. Therapy can include massages or visits to a chiropractor to promote blood flow and loosen tension in the lower back muscles. Back muscles can weaken within a couple weeks, so strength exercises are important for recovery.

What are common types of neck injuries?

Neck injuries are also surprisingly common and can happen with twisting or pressure on the upper back and neck. Pain can radiate down into the upper back and shoulders. While neck pain can include damage to the spinal cord, muscle and ligament strain is more common.

Whiplash from a car accident is a common neck injury. If you experienced an automotive accident at work, the impact may have caused Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD): neck or shoulder pain, stiffness, jaw soreness, dizziness, etc. As a job-related accident, you can still file a workers’ compensation claim.

Other types of injuries include muscle strains in the neck. These are usually mild, but can cause pain that affects your daily movements. To avoid this kind of pain, vary your neck positions while working. Don’t carry too much weight on one side of your body. If you have to lift something heavy at work, try to distribute the weight. However, some muscle strain is caused by problems in the joints around the neck instead of the muscles themselves.

Mechanical neck pain—or neck pain directly linked to the spinal column—can occur when one of the joints in the neck can no longer move freely or absorb shock. Your range of movement is limited and can become painful if left untreated. It can also cause nerve problems, but can usually get better with rest and changing the physical movements that make it worse. Mechanical neck pain is not a permanent or severe medical condition, but the muscle and joint aggravation can be eligible for Illinois workers’ compensation in the form of temporary partial disability payments.

What are common causes of back and neck work injury?

Most back injuries which occur at work are the result of unnatural twisting of the spine—overextension—from heavy lifting, pulling, pushing, or poor posture while sitting for prolonged periods. If you hurt your back at work, you will likely need to seek some sort of treatment that may require 3 to 6 weeks of recovery if your condition is more severe.

Neck injuries can come from a variety of places:

  • Less severe, from:
    • Tripping
    • Over-extension
    • Minor falls
  • More severe, from:
    • Workplace car accident
    • Falls from significant heights at a construction site
    • Direct impact to the back or the top of the head
    • Penetrating injury (stab wound or sharp object accident)
    • External pressure applied to the neck (impact or strangulation)

These can be prevented by being careful at work. But more severe injuries can be hard to predict and prevent. They can, in some cases, require months or years of recovery, depending on whether or not the spine is damaged.

What’s the difference between damage to the back and neck muscles and damage to the spinal cord? What’s the difference in how I’m compensated?

While muscle strain can be painful and take a while to recover from, spinal cord injuries are much more severe. For most back and neck injuries that don’t cause permanent damage, you may be entitled to either temporary total disability or temporary partial disability. Spinal injuries (like permanent paralysis or other debilitating conditions) are more likely to result in permanent total disability or permanent partial disability payments. For all of the injuries listed above, however, you may be entitled to payments to cover medical costs for work accidents.

If you suffer from back or neck pain from a work accident. Give us a call to find out how we can help. 773-522-7000

Contact Jack Epstein

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