The term back injury covers a huge range of complaints, from minor sprains which clear up after a few days, to severe spinal trauma which may result in permanent disability. An injured person should always seek advice from a specialist back injury solicitor due to the complex physical structure of the back itself, and the difficulty of assessing the long-term effects that a back injury may cause. It is also often difficult to link cause and effect in back injury cases. Around 80% of people will suffer from lower back pain over the course of their lives, and often this will be linked to recreational activities such as sports or gardening. Back injuries at work are most commonly caused by manual handling, and successful compensation claims usually rely on an employer’s failure to provide adequate training in safe lifting techniques. Car accidents involving whiplash also regularly cause damage to the back, as does any accident which involves a sudden jarring or jerking movement in the body. This could be a slip, trip or a fall from height. Poor posture while working or repetitive tasks which put stress on the back may also result in gradual muscular deterioration and injury over time. The risk of back injury is also heightened by tiredness, or if a person is suffering from mental pressures causing physical tension in the body.
The back is a particularly sensitive area as the spine effectively controls all movement and sensation in the rest of the body. Damage may be sustained by bones and vertebrae, which may be broken or crushed in the event of severe trauma. In the most serious cases damage to the spinal cord itself and the fluids it contains may cause partial or total paralysis. More commonly muscles, ligaments, tendons and soft tissues in the back may be strained, sprained or torn when they are forcefully wrenched or have heavy pressure applied to them. Invertebral discs serve as shock absorbers between vertebrae, and may be forced out of position when subjected to strain or trauma. This condition is known as a slipped, prolapsed or herniated disc, and will normally require four to six weeks recovery time during which only limited movement will be possible. These less severe back conditions may develop immediately following an accident, or develop over time as a result of general wear and tear. Due to the essential role that the back plays in mobility and feeling, even minor injuries can have a profound effect on everyday life and cause ongoing debilitating pain.
Manual handling is the most common cause of back injuries in the workplace, and encompasses activities including lifting, carrying, pulling, pushing, twisting and bending. The HSE estimates that over a quarter of a million people are injured due to manual handling annually, despite the raft of legislation in place to reduce risks.
Generally those engaged in physically demanding occupations such as construction and factory work are most at risk, though in reality an office worker moving a desk faces a similar threat. The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 impose a duty on employers to avoid manual handling which may cause injury wherever a suitable alternative exists. Where manual handling is unavoidable a risk assessment must be carried out. Workers should be fully trained in safe lifting techniques, and should not be asked to lift weights beyond specified limits. Back injury compensation claims most regularly result from management failures in these areas. Back injuries at work may be caused by a variety of other factors, including falls from heights, slips and trips, poor ergonomics at work stations, long-term repetitive actions and the regular adoption of awkward postures.
The law related to back injuries; is often complex, and it is therefore imperative that an experienced, specialist solicitor is engaged to handle claims for compensation.