Injuries and Trauma and Back Pain
An injury or traumatic event can be the outcome of many episodes. Common causes are a road traffic accident, slip, trip, fall, sports injury or from a sudden force of impact from a blunt object.
Trauma and injury to the back, account for most instances of acute back pain. A trauma or injury can cause damage to the spinal, soft-tissue or the neurological structures, and cause the spinal column to become unstable.
Signs and SymptomsAs with any injury the main symptoms are high levels of pain, swelling, bruising, deformity or neurological interferences such as pins and needles or even total numbness in the arms or legs.
Diagnosis of a Spinal InjuryA spinal injury may be difficult to diagnose without imaging to either confirm or rule out a trauma. If undiagnosed and left untreated, a spinal injury can have disastrous consequences. All healthcare professionals will treat the patient as if a spinal injury has occurred until either an X-ray or scan has been performed.
If a spinal injury is suspected, the person should be immobilised immediately, preferably on a neutral and firm surface, until professional help has arrived.
Types of Back InjuryInstability of the spinal column can occur due to a vertebral fracture, often with a coinciding dislocation. The most common type of spinal fracture is a compression fracture that occurs as a result of a fall.
Nerve damage can be the outcome of a fall, road traffic accident or from a physical assault and shouldn’t be underestimated as there may be other injuries, such as spinal fractures, that have exacerbated the nerve damage.
Ligaments can become strained/sprained or torn when the back is injured, causing the muscles to spasm in an effort to protect the delicate structures of the spinal canal. This can happen in any region of the spine and can be very serious.
Torn ligaments can take up to 12 months to heal fully, and if left can result in them becoming permanently overstretched leading to long-term spinal weakness.
A herniated disc may result, after a fall, collision in sport of after lifting something that is too heavy.
Prevention of a Back InjuryAlong with the usual measures such as ensuring correct lifting techniques are adhered to, there are other considerations that can help avoid a back injury:
- Never get in a car with someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Wear appropriate footwear when the weather is cold, icy, snowing or even just a hard frost.
- Be careful to not walk on wet floors if possible; trips and slips are very common causes for back injuries.
- Christmas is a time for many traumas to occur as children are trying out new bikes, scooters, roller-skates etc, make sure they have adequate protection on as well as a thick padded jacket.
- If playing sports, make sure tackling techniques are all approved methods, and make sure a sufficient warm-up is performed prior to starting to play.