Car crashes and other accidents can result in the all-too-common experience of upper back pain. While many dismiss a tweaked back or spasm, back injuries are not something to take lightly. The pain can be almost unbearable, not to mention the possibility of a herniated disc keeping you from earning a living.
In this guide, our Ohio injury lawyers will explore upper back injuries, shed light on common causes, and provide advice for finding physical and financial relief.
What’s Meant By “The Upper Back”?
The upper back is a large area of the body that supports, protects, and provides mobility. Specifically, it refers to the thoracic spine.
The upper back includes the:
- Thoracic Vertebrae: The thoracic spine consists of 12 vertebrae (T1 to T12) that form the middle section of the spinal column, linking the cervical spine (neck) and lumbar spine (lower back). These vertebrae offer stability and support for the upper body.
- Intervertebral Discs: Cushion-like structures called intervertebral discs are situated between each pair of thoracic vertebrae. They serve as shock absorbers and enable spinal flexibility.
- Ribcage: The thoracic spine connects to the ribcage, an often-overlooked part of the upper back. The ribcage safeguards vital organs, such as the heart and lungs, while supporting the upper body.
- Spinal Nerves: Spinal nerves emerge from the spinal cord and pass through spaces between the thoracic vertebrae. These nerves relay signals between the brain and various parts of the body.
- Muscles & Ligaments: Various muscles and ligaments surround the upper back. Key muscle groups in this area include the trapezius, rhomboids, and latissimus dorsi.
- Shoulder Blades (scapulae): The shoulder blades are flat, triangular bones positioned on each side of the upper back. They link the collarbone (clavicle) and upper arm bone (humerus) to the thoracic spine.
Accidents & Injuries That Cause Upper Back Pain
All sorts of things can result in upper back pain. While even sleeping in an awkward position can cause discomfort for a few days, some incidents can lead to debilitating upper back injuries.
Car accidents, for example, can cause whiplash. Although considered a neck injury, whiplash may also affect the upper back due to the head’s forceful back-and-forth movement. Similarly, a sudden fall can result in muscle strains, ligament sprains, herniated discs, or fractured vertebrae in the upper back. A sudden twisting from a negligent medical professional can crack a rib or permanently damage the back.
Upper Back Injury Examples
Regardless of the cause, back injuries can profoundly impact an individual’s life. This makes timely intervention and treatment essential.
Upper back injuries may include:
- Muscle Strain or Ligament Sprain: Overuse, heavy lifting, or sudden movements can strain muscles and ligaments in the back, leading to pain and discomfort. Treatment typically involves rest, ice and heat therapy, pain relievers, and gentle stretching.
- Fractured Vertebrae: Trauma from a fall, car accident, or sports injury can result in fractured vertebrae in the upper back (thoracic spine). Treatment depends on the severity and location of the fracture. However, it typically includes bracing, pain medication, and physical therapy. In severe cases, surgery may be required.
- Herniated/Slipped Discs: A herniated or slipped disc occurs when the soft inner material of a spinal disc bulges out through a tear in the outer layer. This can cause pain, numbness, or weakness in the back. Treatment often includes medication, physical therapy, and, in some cases, surgery.
- Whiplash: Whiplash results from a sudden, forceful back-and-forth head movement, such as in a car accident. Although it primarily affects the neck, it can cause upper back pain. Treatment may include pain relief, muscle relaxants, ice and heat therapy, and physical therapy.
- Thoracic outlet syndrome: This occurs when nerves or blood vessels between the collarbone and first rib are compressed. Treatment may include physical therapy, pain relief, and, in severe cases, surgery.
- Osteoarthritis: This is a joint disease that affects the spine, causing pain and stiffness in the upper back. Post-traumatic osteoarthritis is common after auto accidents due to the force of the collision damaging the cartilage around a joint Treatment includes pain relief, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and, in severe cases, surgery.
- Spinal Stenosis: Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal, which puts pressure on the spine and nerves, leading to pain, numbness, and weakness in the upper back. Treatment may include pain relief, physical therapy, and, in some cases, surgery.
- Myofascial Pain Syndrome: This chronic pain disorder typicity stems from untreated trauma to the muscles, like those in a fall or car crash. Treatment may include physical therapy, massage, trigger point injections, and relaxation techniques.
What to Do If You Have Upper Back Pain After an Accident
If you or a loved one are experiencing upper back pain after an accident, consult a healthcare professional. They can provide a proper diagnosis and begin treatment as soon as possible. They may recommend a combination of meds, physical therapy, and other procedures to manage pain and address the cause.
Aside from helping you heal, early intervention can strengthen your case for compensation.
To address a back injury:
- Seek Medical Attention: Even if your pain is manageable, consult a doctor. They can diagnose the pain, provide a treatment plan, and help you recover.
- Rest & Immobilize: Try to rest and avoid activities that may exacerbate the pain. If possible, immobilize the affected area with a soft brace or sling to minimize movement.
- Apply Ice & Heat: To reduce inflammation and promote healing, apply ice for 20 minutes, several times daily, for the first 48 hours. Then, switch to heat, such as a heating pad or warm towel. This relaxes muscles and improves blood flow.
- Pain Relievers/Medications: You can take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to manage pain. However, follow the recommended dosage and consult your healthcare provider before taking prescription pain medications (e.g., muscle relaxants, opioids).
- Gentle Stretching & Exercises: Your doctor may recommend gentle stretching and exercises to improve mobility and strengthen the muscles around your back.
- Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can provide targeted exercises and therapies to help restore function, increase mobility, and reduce pain.
- Alternative Treatments: Some people find relief from upper back pain through alternatives such as acupuncture, massage, or chiropractic care. Consult with your healthcare provider before trying these treatments.
- TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation): A TENS unit delivers low-voltage electrical currents through electrodes placed on the skin. It can help reduce back pain by stimulating nerves and altering pain perception.
- Steroid Injections: These injections deliver anti-inflammatory medication directly into the affected area around the spinal nerves, providing temporary pain relief.
- Trigger Point Injections: A healthcare provider can inject a local anesthetic or corticosteroid into a trigger point (a tight area within a muscle) to help relieve pain.
- Back Surgery: In some cases, when conservative treatments fail or the underlying cause is severe (e.g., a herniated disc or spinal stenosis), surgery may be recommended to alleviate pain and improve function.
Seeking Compensation for Upper Back Pain
You shouldn’t have to deal with the expense and stress of an upper back injury alone, especially when you were not the cause. Ohio law states you can pursue compensation for all your losses when another’s negligence results in harm.
Compensation is crucial for your recovery and ensuring your financial stability during this time. Compensation helps cover your medical treatment, rehab, and ongoing care. Further, you can cover wages and reduced earning capacity, helping you maintain your quality of life.
Additionally, compensation for your pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life acknowledges your back injury’s impact. In essence, compensation is not only a means of holding the responsible party accountable, but also vital in supporting your recovery. It can alleviate the burdens of an upper back injury.
How to Recover Damages for Upper Back Pain?
Compensation for your injuries is usually pursued through a personal injury claim or lawsuit against the party responsible. To successfully recover compensation for a back injury, you must prove the other party’s negligence led to your injuries and demonstrate the extent of your damages. This is accomplished with evidence, like medical records, documentation of lost income, photos, or witness statements from the accident scene.
Consult a Lawyer about Your Back Injury
No one expects to suffer a significant back injury, but a lawyer can clarify your situation and advocate for your interests. An experienced personal injury lawyer can gather evidence, identify who’s at fault, and help build your case for maximum compensation. A lawyer also protects you from insurance companies attempting to minimize or deny your claim. With their guidance, a lawyer lets you focus on returning to the life you had before hurting your back.
At KNR, our Ohio personal injury lawyers have an extensive history and impressive record of securing compensation and justice for all the negative impacts an act of negligence has had on your life. From back injuries related to car crashes to slip and falls and other accidents, let our team review the facts, discuss how your back injuries affected your life, and guide you toward a result so you can move on.
Call 1-800-HURT-NOW for a free consultation. There are no fees unless you recover compensation.