The incidence of tractor-trailer accidents continues to rise at an alarming rate in the United States. Last year over 500,000 accidents were from large trucks and other commercial motor vehicles, as a result of which more than 100,000 resulted in grave injuries with an estimated death toll of 5000 people. Unfortunately, these figures are not anticipated to decline in the coming future, with a projected increment of 20% trucks on the roads by 2012. The average number of truck accidents in the state of Missouri is over 8000, killing more than 150 people annually.
With these grave figures in mind, the necessity of having a baseline knowledge of injuries sustained during road traffic accidents cannot be understated.
The back is a region of the human body that may appear deceivingly stable, but this unit of soft tissue, muscle, and bone are quite susceptible to trauma. The delicate spinal cord despite being under the protection of several layers of tissue often fails to escape damage.
Mechanism of Back Injury
The extent of injury sustained is proportional to the force of impact. Over-stretching or excessive load on back structures leads to damage of various sorts. Ranging from a mere muscle pull to rupturing of ligaments or crushing of the vertebral bones, the spectrum of back injuries is quite wide.
Types of Back Injuries
Vertebral fractures: These are of three main types of injury that affect the thoracic and lumbar spines. Knowing the type determines the method of treatment. The three patterns of injuries are flexion, extension, and rotation.
- Flexion pattern- this type of fracture is not associated with any neurological disability and is usually stable.
- Extension pattern – may occur in head-on crashes where the pelvis is stabilized through a lap seat belt and the upper body is thrown forwards, causing the vertebra to be pulled apart.
- Rotation pattern- this occurs as a result of extreme lateral bending of the spine and is fairly uncommon.
Sprains: Sprains occur when the ligaments, which are bands of tissue attached to the vertebral bones for support are stretched or torn, leading to injury. This results when the ligaments are extended beyond their normal range of mobility, by a sudden fall or a twist, forcing the joint out from its normal anatomic position.
Strains: When a muscle or tendon is twisted, pulled, or torn out of its attachment, it is called a strained muscle. Tendons are fibrous bands that attach the muscle to bone. Excessive trauma can result in overextension and even rupture of the tendon.
Herniation of Intervertebral disk (disk prolapse): This usually occurs in the lower back where your lumbar vertebra is located and is a common cause of not only lower back pain but also leg pain. The inner jelly-like a portion of the disk cushioning your vertebra protrudes out due to injury and compresses as well as irritates the spinal nerves in the vicinity. This results in pain of moderate to excruciating intensity.
Back Injury Signs and Symptoms
If you have been a victim of an automobile accident recently, the following symptoms should raise an alarm that you may have sustained a back injury:
- Constant, severe pain in the back that is aggravated by movement and relieved upon rest, restricting your mobility and interfering with sleep.
- Swelling or bruising in the affected area.
- Restricted mobility of a back.
- Numbness and tingling in the injured area or legs.
- Weakness or inability to move arms or legs.
- Difficulty in breathing.
- Loss of control over urination or bowel movement.
If the symptoms are mild, they can easily be managed at home with sufficient bed rest, ice packs, compression, and over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen to reduce the pain and swelling. After a day or two, movement is recommended if tolerable.
If the symptoms are severe, a medical practitioner is to be consulted immediately, who will either treat you conservatively through medication or with a help of a brace or splint. In the case of ligament or tendon rupture surgery is considered an option.
If the symptoms are left unattended or improperly diagnosed or treated, the chances of permanent disability are heightened. This may include:
- Immobility may lead to secondary problems such as decreased bone density and muscle mass, weight gain, blood clots in leg veins.
- Lack of flexibility of other parts of the body.
- Pressures sores and pneumonia as a result of spinal fractures.
Taking care of yourself after an accident is solely your responsibility. Self-awareness and vigilance are your shields to prevent serious aftermath. If you have suffered a back injury after an Illinois or Missouri tractor-trailer accident, contact tractor-trailer accident lawyer Chris Dixon for educational information at (314) 208-2808.