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Back Injuries

A healthy back is critical to simple every day activities and injuries to the back area can have an overwhelming effect on day to day life. They can occur as a result of falls and trips on uneven surfaces and pavements or from work related accidents such as slips and falls from sub standard equipment. Back injuries can also be the result of medical negligence and in more serious circumstances can be the outcome of road accidents.

If you have been affected by an accident at work or on the road and have suffered an injury to your back then call us for a no obligation friendly chat with one of our legal professionals on 0161 248 4444

So what exactly is back injury?
Back pain is unfortunately a very common health complaint with eight out of ten people experiencing back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain is usually a symptom of back injury and can range from a mild dull ache to more severe acute pain resulting in an inability to move or complete everyday tasks. It can develop gradually as a result of aging or repetitive strain or suddenly as a result of impact, injury or lifting something that is too heavy.

The back is made up of a complex structure of bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and discs and is involved in the control and strength of almost every movement of your body. If any, or a number, of these elements are subjected to strain from physical activity, trauma or deformity then a back injury can occur.

What does a back injury feel like?

The back is, in essence, a series of interlinked muscles known as paraspinal muscles supporting the spinal column and the weight of your upper body.
The five lumbar vertebrae and connecting ligaments are particularly susceptible to injury as they are involved in many movements. Most lumbar injuries cause symptoms isolated to the lower back and the most common symptoms of lumbar strain or sprain are;


  • Pain around lower back and upper buttocks.
  • Leg pain.
  • Tension in back.
  • Stiffness in back.
  • Lower back muscle spasm.
  • Pain associated with activity that is relieved with rest.

Upper or middle back pain is less common that lower back pain as the bones in this area are less flexible than those in lower back and neck. This area is known as the thoracic spine and symptoms to injury of this area are;

  • Dull, burning or sharp pain.
  • Tight or stiff muscles
  • Pain in legs arms or chest (sign of a trapped or injured nerve

Seek immediate medical treatment if you exhibit any of the following symptoms;

  • Weakness in arms or legs
  • Numb or tingling sensation in arms, legs, chest or abdomen.
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control

What are the symptoms

  • Lower back pain & upper buttocks.
  • Leg pain.
  • Tension & stiffness in back.
  • Lower back muscle spasm.

Examples of compensation

  • Minor Whiplash - up to £4,250
  • Moderate Whiplash - up to £7,750*
  • Severe Neck - up to £82,000*
  • Neck
How we can help you

Prevention of back pain
The most effective way to protect yourself from back pain is through regular exercise to keep your muscles and supporting tissues strong. You can also help to safeguard your back by reducing the risk of falls through activities that improve balance such as yoga and tai chi.
Other ways to prevent unnecessary back pain are;

  • A healthy and balanced diet to boost bone strength.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight to reduce stress on back.
  • Including Vitamin D and calcium in your diet to prevent osteoporosis.
  • Maintaining a good posture, sit up straight and support your back.
  • Avoid heavy lifting and ensure, when lifting, you keep knees bent and a straight back.

What happens when you injure your back?
Pinpointing the exact cause of pain in the complex structure of the back can be difficult. However, the majority of instances of back pain are not caused by serious damage or disease but by minor strains or injuries. Causes of back pain include;

  • bending awkwardly
  • lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling incorrectly
  • slouching in chairs
  • standing or bending down for long periods
  • twisting
  • over-stretching
  • driving in a hunched position
  • driving for long periods without taking a break
  • overuse of the muscles, usually due to sport or repetitive movements (repetitive strain injury) 

The most common back injuries are muscle strains to the lower back as most of the stress associated with bending and lifting is concentrated at the bottom of the spinal column resulting in muscle fibres being abnormally stretched or torn. Lumbar sprains occur when the ligaments that hold bones together are torn from their attachments. As a result of the tearing of muscles or ligaments there can be a microscopic amount of bleeding into the muscle itself, causing swelling and painful muscle spasms. The injured muscles can be tender to the touch and are your body’s way of telling you the muscle needs to be protected.

The actual damage done to the back can vary widely, supporting muscles to the spinal column can be injured, the ligaments that connect the vertebrae and form the strong capsules around the facet joints may be partially torn. Slipped intervertabral discs could also be a cause of pain.

Acute back pain
Acute back pain refers to short term pain that is usually the result of trauma or injury to the lower back, for example, a sports injury, a sudden jolt or stress on spinal bones and tissues. The injury will manifest in muscle aches or shooting / stabbing pain, limited flexibility and limited range of motion.
If the spine becomes strained or compressed a disc may rupture or bulge outwards putting pressure on one or more of the 50 nerves rooted to the spinal cord that control body movements, transmitting signals from body to brain. When these nerve roots become compressed or irritated back pain results.

Chronic back pain
Chronic back pain refers to a pain that persists for longer than 3 months which may be progressive in nature. This type of pain can be caused by medical conditions such as;

  • Bulging Disc - The intervertebral discs are under constant pressure and as discs degenerate and weaken, cartilage can bulge or be pushed into the space containing the spinal cord or a nerve root, causing pain. Studies have shown that most herniated discs occur in the lower, lumbar portion of the spinal column.
  • Sciatica – This is a condition in which a herniated or ruptured disc presses on the sciatic nerve. This compression causes shock-like or burning lower back pain combined with pain through the buttocks and down one leg to below the knee.
  • Spinal Degeneration – This can occur from disc wear and tear leading to the narrowing of the spinal canal. It presents as stiffness in the back or pain from walking or standing for long periods of time.
  • Osteoporosis – This is a metabolic bone disease marked by progressive decrease in bone density. Fracture of brittle, porous bones in the spine and hips results when the body fails to produce new bone and/or absorbs too much existing bone.
  • Skeletal Irregularities – This can produce strain on the vertebrae and supporting muscles, tendons, ligaments and tissues. These are known as scoliosis (curving of the spine to the side), kyphosis (rounded upper back) and lordosis (abnormal arch in lower back). 
  • Spondylitis – This refers to a chronic back pain and stiffness caused by infection or inflammation of the spinal joints. Other painful inflammations in the lower back include osteomyelitis (infection in the bones of the spine) and sacroiliitis (inflammation in the sacroiliac joints).

Issues such as obesity, smoking, stress, poor general health, poor posture and poor sleeping position can also contribute to chronic lower back pain.
In some circumstances lower back pain can indicate a more serious, underlying medical condition. If pain is accompanied by fever, loss of bowel or bladder control or progressive weakness in legs then you should contact your doctor immediately to help prevent further damage.

Correct and swift diagnosis of your back pain is the key to long term relief. The process of treatment begins with seeing your physician who will ask questions about your symptoms take a thorough medical history and perform a physical examination. This procedure can usually identify any dangerous conditions or family history associated with the pain.

The type of questions your doctor will ask you are;

  • Have you fallen or tripped over recently?
  • Does pain increase or reduce if you lie down?
  • Do you or anyone in your family suffer from arthritis or other health conditions that may affect the spine?
  • Have you experienced any tingling or lack of feeling in your legs?
  • Are there any positions or activities that make the pain worse?
  • Is the pain worse at any particular time of the day?
  • Have you experienced back pain before or had surgery on your back?

During the physical examination your doctor will check;

  • Muscle strength
  • Sensation
  • Signs of nerve irritation
  • Signs of fibromyalgis (e.g points of tenderness in back)
  • Your mobility

In the majority of cases the combination of medical history with a physical examination is adequate information for your doctor to form a diagnosis and begin a treatment programme to relieve your back pain. However, if more information is required to confirm a diagnosis then your doctor may recommend further exploration and tests including;

  • X-rays – X-rays are projected imaging of bones that allow your doctor a visual image to analyse and may be ordered if your doctor suspects a fracture, if you display symptoms of osteoarthritis or if there is reason to believe the spine is not properly aligned.
  • MRI – Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a procedure that uses large magnets and radiofrequencies to produce detailed images of internal structures and can be used to diagnose a range of issues. An MRI scan will be ordered if you display signs inflammation, infection or a tumour. This type of test is only necessary if you have more severe pain that is present for longer than three weeks that isn’t helped by medication.
  • CT scan - This imaging procedure uses x rays and computer technology to produce a more detailed picture of bones, muscles, fat and organs. CT scans are used if you display symptoms of a herniated disc, tumour or spinal stenosis.
  • Blood tests – These are not routinely employed for patients with back pain however if you display signs of infection or inflammation they can be used to determine the type of infection you require treatment for.

Home Care
Many cases of acute back pain can be treated at home followed by a full recovery without any residual function loss. If your pain is mild, taking painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen may be enough to control it. Always follow the dosage instructions on the packet to ensure the medicine is suitable and that you do not take too much. However if there is no noticeable reduction in pain or inflammation after 72 hours of self-care then you should contact your doctor immediately.

he use of hot and cold compresses can reduce pain and inflammation and increase mobility. A cold compress, such as ice wrapped in a towel, should be applied to the site of pain as soon as possible after a trauma has occurred. Apply the compress for up to 20 minutes a few times a day. After 2-3 days of cold treatment apply heat using a hot pad or warm compress for short periods to relax muscles and increase blood flow. Taking a warm bath can also help with muscle relaxation.

Bed rest should only be undertaken for 1-2 days at the most and you should lie on one side with a pillow between the knees or on your back with a pillow underneath the knees. The inactivity of bed rest can in some circumstances make pain worse and you should try to resume normal activity as soon as possible.

Although not recommended for acute back pain exercise can be an extremely beneficial way to treat chronic back pain. Exercises that can help build a strong back and good posture are;

  • Flexion: Flexion exercises involve bending forward in order to increase the space between the vertebrae and reduce strain on the nerves, stretch the muscles in the hips and back, and to strengthen the muscles in the abdomen and buttocks. Strengthening the core muscles in the abdomen can help to reduce pressure on the back. It is vital to check contact your doctor if starting an exercise plan, because not all exercises are suitable for everyone. Flexion exercises, for example, are not generally advised for people with herniated discs.
  • Extension: Extension exercises involve bending backwards, for example, lifting your leg and raising the trunk while you lay down. Extension exercises are designed to open up the spinal column and strengthen surrounding muscles. These exercises can help to ease pain radiating from the back.
  • Stretching: Stretching exercises help to strengthen the muscle, increase the range of movement and flexibility and condition the back to prevent injuries in the future. Stretching can also help to alleviate pain caused by stiffness.
  • Aerobic exercise: Aerobic exercise is important for general health and should be employed on a regular basis. Aerobic exercises involve the large muscle groups in the body and include jogging, power walking, rowing, swimming and cycling. It is essential to avoid exercises that require sudden movements or twisting actions if you have back pain, as these can make pain worse. Swimming is often considered a good exercise for individuals with back pain, but it is recommended you ask your doctor or physiotherapist for advice about exercise before you begin.

Medication can be prescribed by your doctor after diagnosis to treat both acute and chronic back pain. The treatment program can involve both prescription drugs and over the counter medications.

  • Over-the-counter analgesics, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen), are taken orally to reduce stiffness, swelling, and inflammation and to ease mild to moderate low back pain. Counter-irritants applied topically to the skin, as a cream or spray, stimulate the nerve endings in the skin to provide feelings of warmth or cold and dull the sense of pain. Topical analgesics can also reduce inflammation and stimulate blood flow.
  • Anticonvulsants — drugs primarily used to treat seizures — may be useful in treating certain types of nerve pain and may also be prescribed with analgesics.
  • Some antidepressants, particularly tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline and desipramine, have been shown to relieve pain (independent of their effect on depression) and assist with sleep. Antidepressants alter levels of brain chemicals to elevate mood and dull pain signals. Many of the new antidepressants, such as the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are being studied for their effectiveness in pain relief.
  • Opioids such as codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine are often prescribed to manage severe acute and chronic back pain but should be used only for a short period of time and under a physician’s supervision. Side effects can include drowsiness, decreased reaction time, impaired judgment, and potential for addiction.

Further treatment
Some back conditions can benefit from physical treatment in combination with prescribed medication, examples of this are;
Traction: Using a series of weights and pulleys to stretch the back and broaden the gaps between vertebrae, this reduces strain on nerves and allows a bulging disc to pop back into place.

Corsets / Braces: These restrict the movement of the lumbar spine, correcting posture and strengthening abdominal muscles. This type of treatment is usually restricted to injuries following surgery or an accident.

Lifestyle changes: Making changes to the way you sit, move and sit can improve painful back conditions. Incorporating exercise into your daily routine and eating a healthy diet will help you maintain a healthy weight and muscle strength thereby reducing the risk of back pain.

Surgical treatment
Surgery is usually only implemented when all other treatments have been unsuccessful and if chronic back pain is preventing you from living a normal life. Surgery is particularly advised for patients who suffer from the following conditions;

  • Herniated disc: this condition occurs when the outer coating of the disc is damaged, which allows the jelly-like substance from inside the disc to escape and causes irritation of surrounding nerves. Herniated discs often cause severe sciatica and soreness down the leg.
  • Spinal stenosis: this occurs when the spinal canal is narrowed and is usually caused by osteoarthritis (which causes bone overgrowth). Spinal stenosis results in pain due to nerve compression and it can also cause loss of bladder and bowel control and lack of feeling in the legs.
  • Spondylolisthesis: this condition occurs when a disc in the lumbar vertebrae slips out of position. When this happens the spine attempts to adjust, causing the joint between the slipped disc and the neighbouring disc to become enlarged, which compresses the nerves. Spondylolisthesis can cause sciatica and lower back pain.
  • Vertebral fractures: vertebral fractures can be caused by injuries, direct impact on the vertebrae or as a consequence of weakened discs from osteoporosis. Fractures usually cause pain in the back but this can also radiate to the legs.
  • Degenerative disc disease (discogenic low back pain): the discs usually degenerate gradually with age, but in some people the process is accelerated. This causes chronic pain and can have severe implications on daily life.

After your treatment
Back pain can become a long-term and debilitating problem if not properly addressed. It is therefore important to obtain the correct diagnosis as soon as possible so that you can receive effective treatment that improves the condition of your back.

Injuries to the shoulder can be painful and difficult to deal with, they can occur as a result of falls and trips caused by potholes in the pavement or from accidents at work with ladders, equipment or slipping on wet floors. Many shoulder injuries are also the result of sporting accidents and in more serious circumstances can be the outcome of road accidents.

If you have been affected by an accident at work or on the road and have suffered an injury to your shoulder then call us for a no obligation friendly chat with one of our legal professionals on 0161 248 4444



The medical information provided is obtained from a variety of public resources including reputable sources. The information on Ashwood Solicitors web site is not medical advice and any information or materials posted on the web site are intended for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, medical opinion, diagnosis or treatment. Any information posted on the web site is not a substitute for medical attention. See your health-care professional for medical advice and treatment.

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