An injury to your back following an auto accident, slip and fall, or during surgery (such as a cut nerve) can be severely debilitating. This is because your back includes your spinal cord with nerves running to all parts of your body. Serious damage to those nerves can cause numbness, weakness, pain, or even loss of function to your arms or legs.
One way this type of spinal injury can happen is through the compression or damage of your spinal nerves, also known as a radiculopathy. Your spine is covered by bones called vertebrae. There are nerves running from your spinal column through the vertebrae to various parts of your body. Compression or damage of these nerves will affect the parts of your body to which these nerves run. The most common types of radiculopathy are cervical (in your upper back) and lumbar (in your lower back). If you have cervical radiculopathy you may feel weakness, numbness, or a sharp pain running from your upper back, neck, and into one or both of your arms. If you have lumbar radiculopathy you may feel that same numbness, weakness, or pain running into one or both of your legs.
In order to diagnose a radiculopathy your doctor (whether a primary care doctor, orthopedist, or neurologist) will perform a physical exam and also use imaging studies. A CT scan or MRI will help see the structures in the problem area. An Electromyography (EMG), which tests the nerve conduction in the problem area, is also helpful in determining if there is nerve damage. During a needle EMG, a needle electrode inserted directly into a muscle records the electrical activity in that muscle. A nerve conduction study, another part of an EMG, uses electrode stickers applied to the skin (surface electrodes) to measure the speed and strength of signals traveling between two or more points. If your EMG shows abnormal electrical activity when a muscle contracts, this can mean you have nerve damage. If your EMG shows any electrical activity in a resting muscle, then you may have a disorder affecting the nerves that connect to the muscle.
A common cause of this nerve damage after an accident is a herniated disc. The vertebrae in your spine are separated by a spongy substance called discs. Trauma to the back and spine can cause one or more of these discs to rupture, and the fragments of this disc can press onto the nerve roots behind the disc space. Initial treatment for an injury like this may include bed rest and physical therapy. However if that does not work surgery may be required to remove the damages disc. Other surgery that is often used to help with ongoing back pain and injury is fusion surgery which is designed to stop the motion at a painful vertebral segment, which in turn should decrease pain generated from the joint.
Sometimes a nerve in your back can get cut or severed due to trauma or surgery. If so a nerve graft may be required – which involves taking a piece of nerve from a donor part of the body to reconnect and fix the injured nerve. However this is not always successful and can also result in permanent loss of feeling in the area where the donor nerve was taken. If not successful you may have partial or permanent loss of the use of the body part to where the severed nerve ran.
The Thistle Law Firm is experienced at handling claims involving serious injury to a person’s back. If you or a loved one have suffered a severe back injury from an accident or surgery, the attorneys at the Thistle Law Firm are here to discuss your options at 215-568-6800.