Back injury compensation
Back injuries can vary in severity, from someone feeling discomfort for just a few days to others being permanently disabled or suffering from back pain their whole life.
The back, in particular the spine, is extremely complex and made up of three parts: the cervical spine (the upper part, usually referred to as the neck), the thoracic spine (the middle par) and the lumbar spine (the lower part). The spine consists of a total of 24 different bones, as well as tendons, ligaments, discs, nerves, muscles and, of course, the spinal cord. A back injury can occur if just one of these become damaged.
If you suffer from a back injury as a result of an accident that wasn’t your fault, you could be entitled to make a back injury claim for compensation.
Most common causes of back injury
Road traffic accidents
Perhaps the most common cause of a back injury claim is whiplash – which is usually caused by a road traffic accident. A whiplash injury typically occurs when the head is thrown forwards or backwards – causing damage to the neck or cervical spine.
As well as whiplash, car accidents can also cause injuries to the mid and lower back due to the large forces involved.
Accidents at work
Lifting heavy objects at work can lead to serious back injuries if correct safety and training procedures haven’t been adhered to. The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 define manual handling as: “…any transporting or supporting of a load (including the lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving thereof) by hand or bodily force“. If these regulations haven’t been followed by your employer and you suffer a back injury as a result, you could be entitled to make a claim for compensation. >>> Read our Health and Safety at Work guide >>>
Slips, trips and falls
Slips and trips are a very common cause of back injuries, with the jarring impact leading to a number of different injuries. Slips and trips are typically the result of wet floors, defective surfaces or debris – all of which should be clearly signposted to avoid accidents.
Falls from a great height are also a common cause of back injury, for example falling from scaffolding or a crane at work, or from a horse or even down a lift shaft.
These types of accidents should be minimised by strict health and safety guidelines, so if you suffer an injury from such a fall you could be entitled to make a claim for compensation. >>> Find out more about slips, trips and falls >>>
Because it is so complex, operations on the spine are very complicated. If such an operation is not performed correctly and leads to lasting damage then you could be entitled to make a claim for compensation. >>> Learn how to make a claim for medical negligence >>>
Defective or faulty products like chairs, stools or ladders can all cause back injuries if they break when in use. >>> Learn more about what to do if you are injured by faulty products >>>
Different types of back injury
There are many different ways in which your back can be injured, these include:
This is a common ‘catch-all’ term for describing more specific injuries such as a ‘herniated disc’ and ‘prolapsed disc’. The pain resulting from this type of injury is caused by the disc pressing on nerves or on the spinal cord itself.
A broken or fractured spine or neck can lead to permanent disability and even death, particularly if damage has been caused to the spinal cord. Another bone that is often broken in the back is the coccyx, or ‘tail bone’.
Soft tissue injuries
These include damage to ligaments, muscles, nerves and tendons in the back – which can cause pain if bruised. Whiplash is perhaps the most common form of soft tissue injury.
If you have suffered a back injury following an accident that wasn’t your fault, contact us today to learn more about how we can help…
How much compensation can you claim for a back injury?**
There are many different factors to take into account when determining how much back injury compensation you could be entitled to. We’ve listed some example figures below taken from our personal injury compensation calculator:
Severe back injury:
£29,475 to £112,350:
- Most severe injury: £69,200 – £122,350
- Cases with special features taking them outside the lower bracket:£56,375 – £67,200
- Disc lesions/fractures of disks/ soft tissue injury with chronic conditions:£29,475 – £53,000
Moderate back injury:
£9,500 to £29,475:
- Residual disability less than severe:£21,100 – £29,475
- Disturbance of ligaments/prolonged exacerbation/prolapsed discs etc…:£9,500 – £21,100
Minor back injury:
A few hundred pounds – £9,500:
- Full recovery or recovery to nuisance level within 2-5 years:£6,000 – £9,500
- Full recovery between 3 months and two years: £1,860 – £6,000
- Full recovery within 3 months: a few hundred pounds – £1,860
** Information taken from Judicial College Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases – 13th Edition. – please note that these figures are for guidance only and the compensation that you receive may be outside of these guidelines.
Please note: The exact compensation payout amount depends on how severe the original back is injury, the degree of pain experienced, the extent of any medical treatment needed in the past or potentially in the future and the impact the injury has had on the claimants ability to function in daily life.
For more information, see our personal injury compensation payout guide >>>
How to avoid back injuries at work
Did you know that back injuries are the most common work based injuries in the UK?
What’s more, back pain is estimated to cost Britain around £5 billion per year!
Follow our guide to make sure you don’t become a victim…
Most of us know that to lift something safely, we need to bend our knees. And whilst you know that there is a limit to the amount that you can lift safely, there might come a time when you’re alone in the office, you don’t want to disturb your co workers, so as just a one off you go and lift something heavy…
The next thing you know, you injure your back and suffer from days, weeks, even years of discomfort and pain.
Even though back injuries are the most single common work-based injuries recorded in the UK and around the world, they are almost always avoidable.
There are guidelines and rules in place in order to protect employees from injuries. If employers ignore these rules they risk severe penalties.
Employers have a duty to ensure that employees are taught the relevant work safety practices. This includes lifting limits for both men and women.
However, employees also have a duty to seek out the information and put it into practice for themselves.
A back injury can arise from a single error of judgment, but it can leave you in agony for days, weeks, months and years. It is in everyone’s best interest to avoid.
Who is the most likely to experience a work related back injury?
You might think that nurses are at the most risk of injury due to lifting heavy patients each day. But nurses have specialist manual handling training and are taught the safest way to lift, what their limits are and can identify specific aids to help them. The same applies with sports people and dancers, as they rarely experience back injury.
What are the secrets to avoiding these injuries?
Exercise is a good way to avoid a back injury in the first instance. If you have an inactive lifestyle or you are overweight then it is more likely that you will go on to develop backache, which in turn increases your risk of a work-related back injury.
Another major cause is having a bad posture. The majority of people in the 21 Century spend most days sitting at their desk, staring at their computers or other screens. If this sounds like you then it’s important that you take the time out in your day to walk around, even if it’s just for a few minutes an hour.
Try and walk as much as you can, don’t give into temptation by using the lifts, opt for the stairs whenever you can. Besides losing weight and avoiding back pain, exercise is really good for lowering blood pressure, relieving stress and depression.
Comfort is important, so become aware of your office chair. Is the height of your seat ok? And is that seat suitable for your desk? It’s surprising how much of a difference to your posture this can make.
Look at the height of your computer screen, is it set too high? What about your shoes? Perhaps they are more of a fashion statement rather than suitable shoes for your job.
If you are a driver, or you travel long distances in work, sitting for hours on end in a truck or a car can become really uncomfortable, look at ways you can improve your posture and reduce stress.
It has been estimated that 5% of all back pain is related to stress, that tells us that learning ways to relax is important. Yoga, meditation and exercise, are all techniques that can be helpful. Try to avoid exercises that put more pressure on the spine or back muscles. It’s always better to do your own best to start off with any form of exercise. Start to develop smart lifting and carrying habits. When you pick up a heavy load or package keep your back straight, do not bend from the waist and always bend your knees!
If satchels and backpacks aren’t worn properly they can lead to back problems. Do not sling a heavy bag over your shoulder, in doing so you can cause your spine and shoulders to twist as the weight is distributed unevenly – a recipe for future pain.
Be sure to carry any weight in the centre line of your body, try to ensure that it doesn’t put an awkward sideways pressure on the spine or back muscles.
More importantly, whilst the onus is on the employer to ensure that each employee knows the regulations related to lifting and carrying in the workplace, it is everyone’s own responsibility to know their limits.
Likewise, it is important that you are aware of your rights in the workplace, in case you suffer from a work related back injury. Back pain can lead to months off work, which is bad news for anyone due to the big drop in income. However, employers must have insurance to cover this. You might feel awkward about making a claim against your employer’s insurance but in reality, it is only fair. A personal injury lawyer can help you to manage your claim and ensure that you don not suffer any more than you have to.
A guide to lower back pain
What is the lower back?
The lower back, often referred to as the lumbosacral region is a complex structure of interrelated and overlapping parts, which is located between the bottom of the ribs and the top of the legs.
The parts within the lower back include tendons and muscles that attach to and surround the spine, as well as other soft tissue parts.
There are also extremely sensitive nerves located in this area, including root nerves that travel from the lower back and down into the legs and feet.
As the lower back is part of the spine it is made up of bones called vertebrae. The vertebrae are circular and between each vertebra is a disc with a gelatinous core. These discs a have a strong fibrous outer layer and a softer, gel-like centre, their role is to act as shock absorbers and allow the spine to become more flexible.
In addition, strong ligaments attach to adjacent vertebrae to provide enhanced support and strength to the spine. The diverse muscles that are attached to the spine allow the spine to bend and move in a variety of ways. Therefore, allowing us to move more freely.
Let’s take a look at the differences in lower back pain and causes between those of a differing age.
Symptoms of lower back pain in those aged 30 – 60
Adults in this age bracket are more likely to suffer from back pain from the disc space itself, such as the lumbar disc herniation or degenerative disc disease. It can also be caused from a back muscle strain.
Symptoms of lower back pain those aged over 60
Adults in this age bracket are more likely to suffer from pain related to joint degeneration, such as spinal stenosis or osteoarthritis compression fracture.
Specific lower back pain conditions, symptoms and causes
Back Muscle Strain
Two of the most common causes of acute lower back pain are back muscle strain or ligament strain. These conditions can be brought on by lifting heavy objects, sudden movement and or twisting. All of this action can cause muscles or ligaments to stretch causing microscopic tears.
The severity of pain with lower back pain can vary from mild discomfort to extreme pain which can be disabling. However, this is dependent upon the extent of the strain and injury.
Back strains commonly heal by themselves and can be treated easily at home with a combination of rest, ice/ heat application, anti-inflammatory medications, gradual and gentle stretching and lower back exercises. Alternatively, you can seek out the help of a physiotherapist who can treat the condition with a combination of exercises.
Another type of lower back pain condition is sciatica, which is caused by a compressed spinal nerve root in the lower back. This is commonly due to degeneration of an intervertebral disc.
The symptoms of sciatica are quite varied, but generally include any combination of the following:
- General ongoing pain, rather than pain than tends to flare up for a few days or weeks and then eases off
- Pain is worse in the leg and foot area rather than in the lower back
- Generally, it is felt on one side of the buttock or leg
- Pain that tends to worsen after you stand still or sit for long periods of time, but then relieves after walking or mobile
- Intense burning, tingling rather than dull or aching pain
- Might feel weakness, numbness or have difficulty moving the leg or foot
Frequent causes of sciatica
Lumbar herniated disc
Sciatica can be caused when a nerve root in the lower spine is compressed, which then results in pain and numbness that travels along the large sciatic nerve that serves the buttocks, legs and feet.
Sciatica can be caused by a wide range of conditions, but most commonly in younger patients it is brought on by a lumbar herniated disc. However, other causes are degenerative disc disease, isthmic and spondylolisthesis.
Lower back pain that is chronic, worsening by positions and movements
Another form of lower back pain can be chronic lower back pain that seems to get worse when you change positions, or move into a certain position. The symptoms of lower back pain vary, but generally consist of the following:
- A low level of constant back pain that includes episodes of severe pain
- Muscle spasms that can last from a few days to a number of months
- Chronic pain that ranges from niggling to severe
- Back pain that gets worse when sitting
- Pain tends to subside when walking or running
- Changing your position frequently relieves pain
What are the general symptoms of lower back pain?
The symptoms of lower back pain can vary from each individual, taking into account the age of the individual, the underlying condition and causes. But generally symptoms can include restricted mobility which prevents someone from walking or standing.
Pain is often felt in the lower back area but does not tend to radiate down the leg. The pain may move around to the groin, buttock or upper thigh region. But infrequently travels below the knee. The pain is regularly described as dull and achy which leads to sensitivity in the affected area. Often patients complain of severe muscle spasms.
Exercises for lower back pain
The majority of lower back pain exercises are created through therapy programs. These therapy programs are designed to treat not only low back pain, but also pain that radiates down the leg, medically acknowledged as radicular.
These lower back pain exercises consist of a combination of practices of which we will we discuss below…
Through practicing the correct stretching of the muscles along with active exercise will help the patient to maintain a normal range of motion.
As well as this, it will provide a period of rest for the muscles that are suffering from disuse atrophy (shrinking of the muscles due lack of use), or any muscles that are in spasm due to incorrect posture or through nerve irritation.
For the majority of patients it’s best to follow a routine of stretching that has been designed specifically for them by a physiotherapist or a spine physician. Usually, patients that are suffering from low back pain should focus on stretching the abdominal muscles, lower back muscles, hips, and legs.
The patient should not bounce during stretching, as well as this, stretching should be done slowly and gradually.
Dynamic stabilization exercises
The main goal of dynamic stabilization exercises is to strengthen the secondary muscles of the spine; this is done through a variety of movements.
Standard exercises usually include the use of exercise balls, balancing machines or particular stabilizing exercises.
Core strengthening exercises
In order to build strength around the lower back region it is necessary to work towards strengthening the abdominal muscles and lower back muscles, medically known as the erector spinae. This then leads to tightening the core region to build up what is referred to as the ‘belt of muscle’ around the spine which will provide support for the lower back. These exercises usually include:
- Exact abdominal strengthening, such as crunches, sit-ups, and leg raises and the use of abdominal machines.
- Hyperextensions are low back exercises that can be performed on machines or by lying on the stomach whilst gradually raising the chest off the ground. This form of exercise uses the lower back muscles to ‘hyperextend’ the spine.
- ‘Good-mornings’ these are a form of exercise that strengthen the lower back muscles. The patient will be required to stand with their legs straight and shoulders hip width apart, holding a broom-stick or a weighted bar across the shoulder area. The patient is then required to bend forward slowly until their face is parallel to the floor and then rise back up. This is a similar movement to bending forwards and touching the toes, with the exception that the weight is distributed across the shoulders.
Physical Therapy for Low Back Pain Relief
Different forms of physical therapy exercises may help with lower back pain relief.
Aquatic water physical therapy
Hydro physiotherapy is also known as aquatic (water) physiotherapy. This type of therapy uses water to support the body and to minimize the effect of gravity, thus making it easier for patients to break into an exercise program.
Hydro physiotherapy is very useful for elderly and disabled patients who may not have the physical strength to practice some of the exercises outside the aquatic pool.
Lumbar traction involves a patient that lies on their back whilst being secured on certain table. At the foot end of the table is a cable that comes out and is attached to a strap that has been placed around the patient’s hips. The cable is attached to weights that are placed at the foot-end of the table, and it is this that creates a continuous and mild pulling force on the hips toward the foot-end of the table.
The objective of traction is to unburden the space between the discs and muscles in the lumbar spine. This unburdening is to provide a period of rest which enables the muscles to rest and thus takes the pressure off the disc space.
However, research that has been conducted on the efficiency of traction is controversial. Some studies have demonstrated that it adds value, whilst in opposition to this; other studies have shown that it is of little or no value for patients with low back pain.
When lower back exercises do not work
On some occasions spine practitioners refer patients for physiotherapy and the patient’s then return to their GP stating that they have stopped the therapy because they felt that they were not getting ample low back pain relief from the program. Here is a list of reasons why on some rare occasions physiotherapy rehabilitation may not improve lower back pain:
The program does not involve active exercise, if a patients physiotherapy program fails to include any form of exercise, and uses solely hot and cold packs along with stimulation therapy, it can sometimes provide some mild relief from the discomfort, but will not cure the problem. These forms of therapy work more effectively in combination with exercises
Patients failing to stick to the prescribed exercise program accordingly, if a patient does not perform all of the prescribed exercises or does not set aside enough time to devote to the program it is unlikely to provide pain relief for the patient. Being consistent when performing these exercises is more likely to strengthen the back and help to maintain a better posture and stop recurring pain in the future.
Patients that do not keep up with exercise long term, it is best for patients to continue with the prescribed physical therapy exercises and/or a self directed exercise program following the initial course of physical therapy. Typically, it is recommended that the patient maintain the basic core and dynamic stabilization exercises and slowly shift into a more extensive exercise program, including low impact aerobic exercise and specific weight-lifting exercises that will not load the spine.
Patients do the exercises incorrectly, patients may not have a clear understanding of how their exercises should be performed to bring about the needed benefits. If this is the case, then the patient may benefit from a more thorough explanation on how to perform the exercise by a spine specialist as well as guidance by a qualified physical therapist who could correct possible errors in exercise performance.
Often patients suffering with low back pain are treated successfully with physiotherapy only to discover a year or more later that that their condition has returned.
The majority of the time, during physiotherapy sessions, the patient strengthens their abdominal and lower back muscles, this then takes the stress off the lower back. However, after physiotherapy the patient fails to continue with the abdominal and low back exercise program at home, which then leads to a steady loss of fitness in the trained muscles and subsequently low back pain ensues. Therefore, it is suggested that once a patient is treated successfully with physiotherapy, he/she should create an exercise maintenance program at home in order to sustain the muscle mass and strength that was developed in the physiotherapy sessions.
The importance of lower back pain exercises
Failing to exercise and keep active can aggravate the pain
Whilst pain in the lower back could put us off from exercising, a lack of exercise can aggravate the pain, causing stiffness and weakness. It is necessary to keep moving in order to ensure that the discs, muscles, ligaments, and joints are all kept healthy.
Keeping active through physical activity ensures that nutrients are distributed into the affected disk space and helps to keep it healthy. Significant immobility deprives the injured disc of the nourishment it needs, which can result in further deterioration and discomfort.
Furthermore, through keeping active and exercising regularly ensures that the fluids in the spinal structures exchange accordingly and thus reduce swelling that occurs naturally in the tissues that surround the affected/injured disc.
Rehabilitation and Exercise can help with healing
A natural method for the healing of the lower back is to exercise, but it must be done in a controlled, steady, and progressive way. Even though other forms of treatment such as injections and medication can help in the healing process, they are limited in what they can do.
Strengthening, stretching and Aerobic Exercises are significant in rehabilitation
A rehabilitation program that is wide ranging consisting of stretching, strengthening, and aerobic conditioning of the back and body are vital in recovering.
Participating in stretching exercises help due to the fact that inactivity is usually accompanied with stiffness and by stretching out the lower back area you ensure that you are keeping active.
Often patients that are suffering with chronic pain find that it can take weeks or even months of stretching to mobilize the spine and soft tissues; however, they will find that by keeping active and increasing motion provides relief from back pain.
Aerobic conditioning exercises are equally as important due to the fact that aerobically fit patients have fewer lapses of low back pain. As well as this, patients that are well-conditioned tend to be more likely to sustain their regular routine, whereas in contrast to this, patients that are suffering from chronic low back pain, that do not work on aerobic conditioning, are more likely to lose their capability to perform daily activities over time.
Managing anxiety about Exercising
Whilst it is normal to feel worried about exercising, it is equally as important to manage your anxiety and fear of injuring yourself again; this is in order to regain normal muscle function. The foundation for feeling apprehension about lower back pain lies in the central nervous system, and this responds to pain by instructing the muscles that are based around the affected part to protect against additional injury. Therefore, only the correct physical training that makes the muscles recover their function can overcome this neurological barrier.
Visit a fully trained and accredited Health Professional for Rehabilitation
It is recommended, for all forms of exercise, to seek the advice of a trained and licensed spine specialist, such as a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, doctor or chiropractic.
However, the rehabilitation and exercise program will differ significantly depending upon your diagnosis and level of pain. Spine specialists are fully trained to develop a suitable rehabilitation program and provide instruction on correct technique and form.
Back spasm treatments
Back spasms are different from ordinary aches and pains. Spasms usually occur following a torn muscle or overuse injuries which cause inflammation. The inflammation can overstimulate the nerves that connect the back muscles and cause them to contract sharply, resulting in a painful spasm.
There are a number of treatments you can try at home to lessen the impact of a back spasm and find some relief from the pain.
Physical treatments are usually the first port of call when treating a back spasm.
Applying pressure to the area of your back where you feel the spasm can provide some relief. Press down firmly with your fingers. If you feel the spasm intensify, maintain the pressure until it subsides.
Using your shower head, direct the water directly onto the affected part of your back and switch between hot and cold water for 30 seconds each.
Gentle Stretches and Strengthening
Once the pain has subsided and you’re feeling a little better, you can try gentle stretching to loosen up the tightness in your back. It is also a good idea to introduce some back strengthening exercises into your training regime, but it is recommended that you consult your GP and/or physiotherapist before beginning.
Heat Treatments and Cooling Compresses
You can use alternate applications of cold and heat to treat the inflammation.
Icing your back can help to reduce the inflammation that triggers the spasm. Apply an ice pack to your back for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove it for 90 minutes. You can then re-apply the ice pack for another 20 minutes. You should repeat this frequently over the course of two or three days after suffering a back spasm.
You should commence heat treatment no sooner than 72 hours after the onset of a spasm. The heat will relax the muscle fibres and promotes circulation to the area which assists in healing. You should ensure that your heat source is damp: soaking in showers or baths is ideal.
If you find that normal paracetamol or ibuprofen are not having much effect, you could try acetaminophen. This painkiller is available over the counter and is popular amongst back-pain sufferers. It works differently from ordinary painkillers in that is lessens your perception of pain in the brain and it appears to be particularly effective for back pain.
After suffering a back spasm, you should rest as much as you can. Complete bed rest is not necessary in most cases, but you must avoid overworking your back. It can also help to elevate your legs.
Increasing Fluid Intake
Many sufferers aren’t aware that back spasms have been linked to dehydration. Drink plenty of fluids and consider an electrolyte drink to top up your hydration levels.
If Your Symptoms Don’t Subside, Seek Medical Advice
If your symptoms persist or worsen, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe medication and refer you to a physiotherapist or chiropractor for additional treatment.
Are you eligible to claim?
Have you suffered from a back related injury as a result of something you have done at work?
To find out more about how Cute Injury can help, get in touch with us today.