Work-related accidents that impose trauma to the spine can cause vertebrae compression fractures. The spinal column is made up of 24 vertebrae stacked on top of each other, providing the entire body with support and protecting the spinal cord. When there is a forceful impact on the spine, as can happen in a falling accident at work, it can crush vertebrae, causing it to collapse. This is known as a compression fracture, and can cause intense pain and disability.
Vertebrae fractures from a traumatic accident usually involve a strong impact to the spine as the victim is bent forward. One of the ways this commonly happens is when a worker falls and lands in a seated position. The buttocks striking the ground combined with the simultaneous downward force, can cause spinal compression and ultimately lead to fracture.
Symptoms of Compression Fractures of the Spine
For compression fractures related to aging and osteoporosis, it’s sometimes easy to miss the symptoms because they may start very mildly. However, when the injury is because of trauma, victims generally feel intense back pain that shoots down the extremities.
The types of symptoms are also dependent upon the location of the fracture:
- Cervical – If the cervical or neck region sustains a compression fracture, patients may feel severe neck and head pain that radiates out to the shoulders and arms. They may also have swelling in the back of the neck.
- horacic – When the fracture occurs in one of the thoracic (mid back) vertebrae, victims usually experience severe pain in the back, legs, and arms. Weakness and numbness might be present if the vertebrae or bone fragments are pressing on the spinal cord.
- Lumbar – Symptoms of lumbar (low back) compression fractures are very similar to those of thoracic fractures: severe pain, weakness or numbness in the back and legs.
Treatment Options for Spinal Fracture Injuries
Treatment for spinal compression fractures depends upon where the fracture is located, other injuries that may be present, and the particular fracture pattern. The doctor’s first priority will be to stabilize the victim and deal with any immediate life-threatening conditions.
Most treatment options focus on pain management and back stabilization. Some of the treatments doctors may utilize for workers with compression fractures include:
- cervical collar and braces, pain medication, and traction (cervical compression fractures);
- reduced activity, back braces, and pain medication (thoracic compression fractures); and
- pain relief, lumbar bracing, and rehabilitation (lumbar compression fractures).
For severe fractures, surgery may be necessary. The surgical options for compression fractures are generally minimally invasive, but are quite expensive and still pose risks.
Staying Alert to Clinical Complications
When the vertebrae are fractured because of the impact of an accident, bone fragments may lodge into the spinal canal and cause damage to the spinal cord. This can create damage to the nerves and nerve tissue and may cause paralysis.
In other instances, when the fracture is slight, a worker may not even know she has sustained a fracture and it may go undiagnosed for some time. This can lead to long-term clinical complications such as:
- muscle weakness;
- debilitating pain;
- kyphosis (curvature of the spine);
- reduced range of motion;
- constipation and other bowel issues;
- increased risk of future fractures; and
- impaired physical, psychological, and/or social functioning.
Get Help from an Attorney at Walker, Billingsley & Bair
If treated promptly, the prognosis and outlook is fairly good for minor compression fractures. There’s a long period of recovery though, and patients will likely not be able to return to work for some time.
If you suffered a back injury on the job, it’s in your best interest to take your case to an attorney to seek fair workers’ compensation and explore other legal avenues for recovery depending on the circumstances of the accident.
We invite you to call our office for a FREE legal consultation. We can discuss your case with you and determine the best way to move forward. Contact our workers’ comp firm in Des Moines today at (888) 435-9886.