Back Injuries

Back injuries are one of the most common health complaints, with the World Health Organization (WHO) reporting that millions of people suffer from back pain. Common causes of back pain include sprains, herniated discs, and degenerative conditions like arthritis. Car crashes and falls often result in severe back injuries such as spinal cord damage.

Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment may involve chiropractic care, physical therapy, pain management, and surgery.

At Joe Durham, we’re here to help accident victims with back injuries get the compensation they deserve. Call 229-210-6226 today for a free consultation!

Table of Contents

Types of Back Injuries

Back injuries may affect the muscles, ligaments, the bones of the spine, and the spinal cord itself.


Back sprains occur when the ligaments supporting the spine are stretched or torn, typically due to sudden or excessive force applied to the spine. Symptoms may include pain, swelling, stiffness, and reduced range of motion.

Sprains can occur in any area of the spine but are most common in the lumbar (lower back) region. Treatment often involves rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy to strengthen the surrounding muscles and improve flexibility.


Back strains involve injury to the muscles or tendons of the back, often resulting from overuse, improper lifting techniques, or sudden movements. Symptoms of strains may include muscle spasms, stiffness, and localized pain that worsens with movement.

Treatment for back strains typically involves rest, ice, heat therapy, gentle stretching exercises, and pain management techniques such as over-the-counter medications or muscle relaxants.

Herniated Discs

Herniated discs occur when the soft, gel-like center of a spinal disc bulges or ruptures through a tear in the outer layer, pressing on nearby nerves and causing symptoms such as pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the back, buttocks, legs, or feet.

Treatment options for herniated discs may include rest, physical therapy, pain medications, epidural steroid injections, and in severe cases, surgery to remove the damaged disc or relieve pressure on the nerves.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries result from trauma to the spinal cord, often due to falls, car accidents, sports injuries, or acts of violence. These injuries can lead to varying degrees of sensory, motor, and autonomic dysfunction below the level of the injury, potentially causing paralysis, loss of sensation, difficulty breathing, and other complications.

Treatment for spinal cord injuries focuses on stabilizing the spine, preventing further damage, and maximizing functional recovery through rehabilitation therapy, assistive devices, medications, and surgical interventions such as spinal fusion or decompression.

Signs and Symptoms

Back injuries can manifest through various signs and symptoms, depending on the specific type and severity of the injury.


Pain is the most prevalent symptom of back injuries. The pain may be localized to a specific area of the back or radiate to other parts of the body, such as the buttocks, hips, or legs. The intensity of the pain can range from mild to severe and may be aggravated by movement, bending, or lifting heavy objects.

Muscle Spasms

Back injuries often trigger muscle spasms, which are involuntary contractions of the muscles surrounding the injured area. Muscle spasms can cause significant discomfort and may limit range of motion in the affected area.


Stiffness in the back is another common symptom of back injuries. Individuals may experience difficulty bending, twisting, or turning the torso due to stiffness in the muscles, ligaments, or joints of the spine.

Back Injuries

Numbness or Tingling

Back injuries that compress or irritate spinal nerves can lead to sensations of numbness, tingling, or “pins and needles” in the back, buttocks, legs, or feet. These symptoms may indicate nerve involvement and should be promptly evaluated by a healthcare professional.


Weakness in the back or lower extremities may occur with more severe back injuries, particularly those affecting the spinal cord or nerve roots. Weakness may manifest as difficulty standing, walking, or performing daily activities that require strength and coordination.

Limited Range of Motion

Back injuries can restrict movement and flexibility in the spine, leading to a reduced range of motion. Individuals may find it challenging to bend forward, backward, or sideways, or they may experience stiffness and discomfort when attempting to move the spine.

Radiating Pain

Some back injuries, such as herniated discs or spinal stenosis, can cause pain that radiates from the back into other parts of the body, such as the buttocks, thighs, calves, or feet. This type of pain is often referred to as radicular pain and is caused by irritation or compression of spinal nerves.

Changes in Posture

Back injuries may alter a person’s posture as they attempt to alleviate pain or discomfort. Individuals may adopt a hunched or stooped posture to relieve pressure on the affected area, which can lead to muscle imbalances and further strain on the back.

It’s essential to seek medical evaluation if you experience persistent or severe back pain, especially if you also have symptoms such as numbness, weakness, or difficulty controlling bowel or bladder function.


Early and accurate diagnosis is crucial for effectively managing back injuries and minimizing long-term complications. Diagnosing back injuries typically involves a combination of physical examination, imaging studies, and sometimes, additional diagnostic tests.

Physical Examination

A careful physical examination is critical for diagnosing back injuries. The physical exam includes several components, including the following.

  • Range of motion: Testing how well the patient can move his/her spine in different directions.
  • Palpation: The healthcare provider feels for areas of tenderness, swelling, or muscle spasm.
  • Neurological assessment: Evaluating reflexes, muscle strength, sensation, and coordination for any indications of nerve compression or damage.
  • Posture and gait analysis: Observing the patient’s posture and walking pattern to identify signs of underlying spinal issues.

Imaging Studies

  • X-rays: X-rays can detect bone abnormalities, such as fractures, dislocations, or degenerative changes (e.g., osteoarthritis).
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): MRI provides detailed images of the soft tissues of the spine, including the discs, nerves, and surrounding structures. MRI is particularly useful for diagnosing conditions such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or soft tissue injuries.
  • CT (Computed Tomography) scan: CT scans provide detailed images of the bones and joints of the spine. They are especially helpful for identifying fractures or structural abnormalities. CT scans can also help assess for spinal instability or spinal canal narrowing.

Electromyography (EMG) and Nerve Conduction Studies

Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies measure the electrical activity of muscles and nerves to check for damage or dysfunction.

Electromyography (EMG) measures the electrical activity of muscles. It involves inserting very thin needles into the muscles to record their electrical signals. EMG can help identify muscle dysfunction or damage, such as muscle weakness or spasms, which may be related to nerve problems or other issues in the spine.

NCS measures how well and how fast electrical signals travel along nerves. It involves applying small electrical impulses to nerves and recording the nerve’s response. This test helps identify nerve damage or compression.  Nerve conduction studies can help diagnose conditions like sciatica or peripheral neuropathy.

By analyzing the results of EMG and NCS, doctors can better understand the underlying cause of a person’s back pain and tailor treatment accordingly, whether it involves physical therapy, medication, or surgery.

Treatment for Back Injuries

Back Injury Treatment

The treatment for back injuries depends on the cause, severity, and individual circumstances. Here’s an overview of common treatments.

Rest and Activity Modification

The first step in recovering from minor back injuries is to rest and avoid activities that worsen symptoms, such as heavy lifting. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and heat and ice therapy can help relieve pain.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. Muscle relaxants may be prescribed to relieve muscle spasms. In some cases, stronger pain relievers or medications may be necessary.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the treatment of back injuries. It aims to strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and correct posture and movement patterns. Therapeutic exercises, stretching, manual therapy techniques, and modalities like heat or cold therapy may be incorporated into a customized treatment plan.

Injection Therapies

For severe or persistent pain, doctors may recommend injections to help provide relief and reduce inflammation. Corticosteroid injections may be administered directly into the affected area of the spine to reduce inflammation and provide pain relief. Other types of injections, such as nerve blocks or facet joint injections, can target specific nerves to alleviate pain.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractors use manual manipulation techniques to realign the spine and alleviate pain. Chiropractic care for back injuries helps improve mobility, reduce inflammation, and restore function to the affected area.


Surgery is typically considered a last resort for severe or persistent back pain that doesn’t respond to conservative treatments. Surgical procedures for back injuries may include discectomy (removing part of a herniated disc), laminectomy (removing the lamina to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves), spinal fusion, or artificial disc replacement.

It’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific condition and needs. Additionally, seeking prompt medical attention can prevent worsening of symptoms and complications associated with back injuries.


Back injuries can lead to various short-term and long-term complications. It’s essential to seek prompt medical attention to prevent complications.

Short-Term Complications

  • Pain and Discomfort: The pain from a back injury can be severe and even debilitating, affecting daily activities and quality of life.
  • Limited Mobility: Back injuries can restrict mobility and flexibility, making it difficult to work, do household chores, and enjoy fun activities.
  • Risk of Reinjury: If you return to work or activities too soon, you could reinjure your back or aggravate an injury that hasn’t fully healed.
  • Nerve Compression Symptoms: Injuries such as herniated discs or spinal stenosis can compress nerves, leading to symptoms like numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs or arms.

Long-term Complications

  • Chronic Pain: Some people may experience chronic back pain that lasts weeks, months, or even years after the initial injury. Chronic pain can significantly impact a person’s quality of life.
  • Nerve Damage: Nerve damage from prolonged compression or trauma can damage nerves, causing sensory disturbances, weakness, numbness, or paralysis. A spinal cord injury can lead to permanent paralysis and life-long disability.
  • Degenerative Changes: Severe back injuries like spinal fractures may accelerate degenerative changes in the spine, increasing the risk of conditions such as osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease.

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