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Back and Neck Injuries

One needs only to watch late-night television commercials to realize that back pain and back injuries are a significant health concern for Americans. Back braces, pain pills, surgical techniques and exercise regimens are promoted as solutions to the common problem of back pain. When the back pain is the result of an injury, treatment options might be easier to identify, but the bottom line remains the same: Back pain is so debilitating that many Americans become disabled and unable to work or pursue their former activities.

Neck pain and injury are also common. Sometimes neck and back pain go hand-in-hand. Neck pain can be related to back pain or injury because of the connections between cartilage, muscles and nerves in the back and neck. It can be the result of stretching of ligaments or compression on the nerve roots near the spine. Often these types of injuries are found in people who have been in motor vehicle accidents. They can also be the result of work-related injuries caused by falls, as when a construction worker falls from a scaffold, ladder or roof. People who participate in sports such as football, not surprisingly, seem to be at greater risk for neck injuries.

Statistics illustrate the significance and extent of back and neck injuries. By some calculations, between 60 and 80 percent of Americans will experience back pain at least once in their lives. Most people who experience back and neck pain recover, especially if the pain is a consequence of a minor strain, bad posture, improper lifting or poor ergonomics.

However, people injured in motor vehicle accidents and falls – the most common causes of severe chronic neck and back pain – are often not so fortunate. If recovery is possible, patients may have to endure complicated and risky surgeries as well as other treatment regimens that can be as painful as the injury itself. There are no magic solutions.

Moreover, a small proportion of people who suffer neck and back injuries become paralyzed, either partially or completely, changing their lives and the lives of their loved ones forever. By at least one estimate, there are almost 6 million people living with some degree of paralysis in the U.S.

Some people in the U.S. included in this last figure are those whose paralysis was the result of illness such as polio, cerebral palsy and stroke. However, a significant proportion of individuals with paralysis were injured in motor vehicle accidents, falls, sports accidents and work-related accidents.

There are job-related risk factors that increase the likelihood that an individual might suffer a back, neck or spinal cord injury. These include:

  • Heavy physical work
  • Repetitive work
  • Working at a great height
  • Vibration while driving or sitting

Construction workers, health care workers, laborers and truck drivers are among the employees with the highest rates of back and spine injury overall. Paralysis among these workers is most likely the result of falls or being hit by a moving object. Some types of workers, especially law enforcement officers, have a very specific type of risk – the possibility that they will suffer gunshot wounds that impact the spine.

While permanent paralysis from spinal cord injury is infrequent, workers in fields that have a higher risk of back and neck injury should take steps to protect themselves from precipitating events, such as falls, that can result in spinal cord injuries and paralysis.

Individuals who suffer back and neck injuries as a result of another’s negligence, whether in a motor vehicle accident or a work accident, should consult an attorney about their rights and legal options.

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