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What Happens if I Injure My Back at Work?

what happens if i injure my back at work?
Table of Contents

Spine injuries are not to be taken lightly; if you have been injured at work, you may need to seek workers' compensation for your back injury. Back injuries involving severe trauma frequently lead to spinal cord damage. Ensuing problems could be life-changing, with victims suffering partial or complete paralysis. Immediate treatment is imperative, so it's essential to understand the condition and recognize symptoms.

What Is the Spinal Cord?

The spinal cord comprises a bundle of nerve fibers enclosed within the spine. This critical group of threads connects most body parts to the brain. Together, the brain and spinal cord form the central nervous system.

Spinal Nerves

Dozens of spinal nerves emerge from the spinal cord, appearing in short branches known as roots. Sensory roots carry information from all over the body to the brain. Motor roots deliver commands from the brain to various body parts, including skeletal muscles.

Common Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries are among the most permanently debilitating of all back problems. These injuries are defined based on where they occur and the severity of the damage. These factors also determine how much patients can control their limbs following injury. A complete injury occurs when the patient loses nearly all feeling and motor function below the site of damage. Those with incomplete injuries retain some motor or sensory function.

If the injury impacts the arms, legs, trunk, and internal organs, it may be referred to as quadriplegia. Paraplegia occurs when the legs, trunk, and internal organs are affected, but not the arms and hands.

Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injuries

Top spinal cord injury symptoms include loss of motor function and feeling in the affected areas. Additionally, spinal cord damage could lead to loss of bladder control, difficulty breathing, exaggerated spasms, lack of coordination, or an intense stinging sensation.

In the aftermath of a spinal cord injury, getting in touch with a trusted workers' compensation attorney is essential. Contact Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP at your earliest convenience at (770) 214-2500.

Getting Workers' Compensation For Back Injuries

The back is a surprisingly complicated structure, making it difficult to ascertain the specific cause and solution to chronic pain. However, as a back pain sufferer, it behooves you to gain a thorough understanding of the damage you may have endured. Read on to learn about the vertebrae, which play a critical role in numerous injuries:

What Are Vertebrae?

Vertebrae consist of a series of nearly three dozen interlocking bones. Together, these make up the spinal column. Each vertebra features a load-bearing body, an arch that protects the spinal cord, and attachment points that ensure flexible movement.

Classifying Vertebrae

Experts classify vertebrae based on their position. For example, the spinal column's upper portion features cervical vertebrae, while thoracic vertebrae offer attachment points for the ribs. In addition, the sacral and caudal vertebrae are fused into the sacrum and tailbone.

Common Vertebral Injuries

Various injuries strike the vertebrae; most are serious enough to cause severe pain. Vertebral compression fractures may occur in response to osteoporosis but can also result from excessive pressure or a hard fall. Severe compression fractures are known as burst fractures; these occur when the bone shatters, with bone fragments possibly piercing the spinal cord.

Although less severe than burst fractures, vertebral dislocation can prove quite painful. A dislocation occurs when one or more vertebrae are displaced, typically in response to a traumatic neck injury. Occasionally, dislocation and fractures occur at the same time, damaging both soft tissue and the spinal cord.

Symptoms of vertebral injuries vary somewhat based on the severity and whether a burst occurs, but sufferers can expect to experience intense pain, which worsens while standing or walking. Many also suffer a reduced range of motion.

If you suspect you've suffered a vertebral injury on the job, contact Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP at (770) 214-2500 to learn more about your options.

Connective Tissue Injuries and Workers Compensation

When picturing back injuries, people typically imagine fractures or other acute issues. But, some of the most common—and debilitating—conditions involve chronic connective tissue damage. Keep reading for a brief overview of need-to-know terms and other valuable information about connective tissue-related pain.

Tendons and Ligaments

Tendons and ligaments are fibrous bands of connective tissue that link two or more structures (typically bones or cartilage) together. These tissue bands are often to blame for work-related back pain; employees may twist or pull tendons or ligaments while completing everyday work functions—the result: strains and sprains, which involve muscle cramping and significantly decreased range of motion.


Often compared to sweaters due to their densely woven structure, fascia cover bones, muscles, nerves, and internal organs. They also protect the spinal cord.

An oft-forgotten element of spinal injuries, fascia remains poorly understood. Fascia injuries typically follow repeated strain, such as heavy lifting or frequent bending. As a result, patients may experience dull pain or more intense sensations that worsen while completing essential workday tasks. Over time, fascia injuries may lead to trigger points (and further pain) or reduced strength and range of motion.

Synovial Membrane

A protective layer of connective tissue responsible for protecting tendons and joints, the synovial membrane (also known as the synovium) can become inflamed or damaged by traumatic joint injuries. This may lead to pain or swelling. In addition, synovial cysts often result from spinal degeneration. Although uncommon, this condition can cause back pain, leg pain (known as sciatica), and sometimes, muscle weakness or cramping in the legs.

Whether you've suffered a workplace injury to your fascia, tendon, or ligament, seek experienced counsel. Reach out to Smith, Wallis & Scott, LLP at (770) 214-2500 to learn about the next strategic steps in your workers' compensation for your back injury.

Taking Care of Your Back After a Workplace Accident

A shocking 80 percent of Americans experiences back pain at some point. While many witnesses gradual onset with age, others suffer acute pain due to workplace accidents. Quick recovery hinges on prompt medical attention and proper care at home.

Eager to eradicate back pain? This is not a medical blog. And you should never change your exercise or dietary regimen before speaking with your doctor—but you might find these insights valuable.

Rethinking Bed Rest?

Medical experts once prescribed rest as a cure-all for back problems, but recent research suggests prolonged rest could hurt more than it helps. So today, authorities recommend gently resuming physical activity soon after an accident. A daily stroll can make a difference, as can recovery-oriented yoga classes.

Take Regular Breaks

Instead of committing to long, uninterrupted periods of bed rest, talk to your doctor/therapist about taking regular breaks to avoid overloading your back. Breaks may prove necessary for both physical and sedentary activities. For example, instead of sitting at your desk all afternoon, stand up and move around at least once every half hour.

Be Diligent About Physical Therapy

Occasionally visiting your physical therapist is not good enough; honor all appointments and complete any recommended exercises. Be honest with your physical therapist about your routine and current pain. Avoid underplaying or exaggerating what's happening to you.

Don't Expect an Immediate Recovery

Moderate your expectations. Anticipate weeks, possibly even months, of difficulty following your back injury. Stay calm if your back heals more slowly than you initially hoped. You could suffer even worse injuries if you push recovery and try to return to your routine before you're ready.

Let Smith, Wallis, and Scott handle the legal aspects of your workers' compensation for your back injury. Then, call us at (770) 214-2500 to schedule a free, confidential case evaluation.


Hurt Back At Work? What To Make Of The Ideas Of Dr. John Sarno

An influential, yet controversial figure, Dr. John Sarno hypothesized a psychosomatic condition known as tension myositis syndrome. Also referred to as tension myoneural syndrome (TMS), the condition characterizes a variety of nerve issues that lack an obvious physical trigger, including, most notably, chronic back pain. His research provides an alternate perspective for those suffering chronic pain months, even years after a workplace injury.

Is Back Pain Physical or Mental?

In "Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection," Dr. Sarno claims that pain not relieved by typical medical treatments can be blamed on repressed emotional problems. He doesn't suggest the pain is inside your head; he argues that it's real and it results from an intense battle within your mind. It's a controversial theory, but his allegedly successful treatment of over ten thousand patients indicates that psychosomatic issues may indeed play a role in ongoing back pain.

The Link Between TMS and Workplace Injuries

Your workplace accident may be to blame for initial back pain, but per the TMS hypothesis, post-traumatic issues could be at fault for at least some ongoing symptoms; Dr. Sarno believes psychological struggles can manifest as physical pain. He argues that your pain will continue until you unearth and deal with repressed emotions.

Blogger Paul Ingraham offers a more in depth review of Dr. Sarno's work in this series of posts. This obituary in the New York Times offers another valuable perspective. Notably, the Times writes: "Some of [Sarno's] ideas, like his assertion that there is no correlation between chronic back pain and herniated discs, have been validated by research published in The New England Journal of Medicine."

Healing the Body With the Mind

Irrespective of what you think about the TMS hypothesis, workplace victims can take the following away from Dr. John Sarno's books: Mental attitude can have a huge impact on physical recovery. Although your current pain likely originated with a legitimate injury, it might now be treatable. If you have a clean bill of health but lingering pain several months after your accident, it may be time to explore what mental triggers could be impeding your success.

Regardless of the nature of your workplace injury, it is imperative that you seek counsel from a lawyer you trust. Look to the team at Smith, Wallis and Scott for exceptional representation. We're available for a private, confidential consultation at (770) 214-2500.

Trigger Points And Back Injuries: The Basics

Whether you wrenched your back in a lifting accident—a single moment of agony—or hurt yourself through repetitive work over months or years, you'd like to understand the root cause of your discomfort. Why does your pain fail to correspond directly to the injured point? Why do your muscles feel tight and/or tender to the touch? Why does the right massage—done in just the right way—give you so much temporary relief?

The answer could be that your back injury has been caused by (or exacerbated by) myofascial trigger points.

Defining Trigger Points

In 1942, Dr. Janet Travell coined the term "trigger point" in hopes of describing and treating a phenomenon with the following attributes:

  • Pain related to a specific point in the fascia (a type of connective tissue) not caused by inflammation or infection or explained via a neurological examination.
  • If pressed upon, the trigger point is felt as a hardened nodule within a taut band of muscle.
  • twitch response (but not a muscle spasm) may occur upon placing pressure on the trigger point.

Although they can appear in numerous locations, trigger points are most commonly seen in the shoulders, neck, pelvis, and hips.

Referred Pain

Trigger points share some attributes with tender points, but their defining characteristic is referred pain. If pressure is placed on one point, it may refer, or transfer some of the pain to another location. For example, a trapezius-based trigger point can refer pain up the side of the neck and all the way to the head. This referred pain may ultimately lead to a severe headache.

What Causes Trigger Points to Activate?

Many factors prompt trigger point activation, including:

  • Muscle overload
  • Bad posture
  • Direct trauma to an area.

If trigger points activate in one region of the body, other areas may also activate in response.

Once you've identified the source of your pain and the cause, you can take steps to address and eliminate it. In our next blog, we'll explore pain relief options—stay tuned!

Call Smith, Wallis, and Scott at (770) 214-2500 to learn more about your legal options as a trigger point patient.

Trigger Point Therapy To Treat Workers' Compensation Injuries: An Overview

Opinions of myofascial trigger point therapy vary wildly depending on who you ask. Some people tout this alternative approach to pain relief as a miracle cure; others refer to it as bogus science or even actively harmful. The reality, however, probably lies somewhere in the middle: trigger point therapy does not benefit all pain sufferers, but it possibly holds plenty of promise.

What are Trigger Points?

Trigger points are small focal spots found on taut bands of muscle. When improperly activated, they supposedly cause severe, localized pain, or in some cases, immobility. However, in applying direct pressure to problem areas, afflicted individuals instead experience a dull ache, which eventually gives way to relief. This concept is known as referral pain.

What are the Purported Benefits of Trigger Point Therapy?

Advocates claim that applying pressure to localized spots of pain can effectively spur alleviation, freeing sufferers of the need for drug therapy and accompanying side effects. Additionally, advocates claim that myofascial therapy delivers prompt results, with chronic pain sufferers experiencing desperately-needed relief after just one treatment.

Are There Any Downsides?

According to skeptics, trigger point compression does not solve underlying problems, and it is therefore nothing more than a Band-Aid preventing pain sufferers from seeking a more permanent solution. This approach can be downright dangerous if conducted in a DIY manner or by an inexperienced therapist.

What the Science Says

Researchers remain skeptical of trigger point therapy, but there are signs of hope for advocates who require empirical evidence. In a notable study published in BMC Medicine, those prescribed myofascial therapies showed marked improvements over the control group after twelve weeks of shoulder-based intervention. More research is needed, however, to determine whether this is an effective treatment for other sources of pain.

Trigger point therapy may or may not become your go-to solution for chronic or acute pain—speak with a physician before engaging in any self-therapy or treatment like this. But you can count on the qualified Georgia workers' compensation attorneys at Smith, Wallis, and Scott, LLP to help you obtain fair benefits.

Treating Trigger Points After A Work-Related Back Injury

Myofascial trigger points (TPS) remain a mystery; while recent research has uncovered many possible causes and treatment approaches, no one solution applies to all TPS sufferers. Some patients may be forced to try several approaches before finding one that works consistently. The following are a few of the best options for trigger point relief. (Please note that this is not a health blog, and we are not attempting to diagnose or treat you here! See your physician if you're in pain and before you start any medical treatment.)

Strength Training

Many patients suffer TPS due to muscle overload. Strength training prevents new trigger points by reducing the risk of overexertion. However, to be effective, strength training generally must be undertaken on a gradual basis. An overly ambitious regimen could lead to far worse trigger point pain.

Soft Tissue Massage

In the short-term, self-massage can often provide significant relief. However, a certified massage therapist can better target problem areas. Look for a therapist experienced in trigger point therapy.

Dry Needling

Sometimes referred to as intramuscular stimulation, dry needling stimulates myofascial trigger points, allowing physical therapists to reach areas that cannot be manually targeted.


Not to be confused with dry needling, acupuncture has relieved both acute and chronic pain for thousands of years. Acupuncturists focus on meridians, where the energy, or Qi, may be concentrated. A study published by the International Association for the Study of Pain found a high degree of correspondence between trigger points and acupuncture points.


A sophisticated non-invasive therapy, myopulse treatment involves application of low voltage micro-currents, which, when sent through injured areas, promote quick pain relief and long-term healing.

Trigger point sufferers typically begin with non-invasive therapies such as strength training or massage, switching to more advanced approaches if necessary. No one strategy will work equally well for all TPS patients; be open to trying unfamiliar treatments (with your physician's careful guidance).

Call Smith, Wallis, and Scott at (770) 214-2500 to learn more about obtaining workers' compensation benefits in Georgia.

Trigger Point Resources For Injured Georgia Workers

If you suspect trigger points (TPS) are responsible for your current work-related back pain, the following resources offer useful insight:

The Concise Book of Trigger Points

A classic in the growing trigger point field, this essential guide has been translated into over twenty languages. Although published over a decade ago, the manual has been updated on numerous occasions with the latest research. Detailed information and illustrations will help your (and your doctor) navigate TPS and referred pain.

Trigger Points Explained With Animation

Looking for a simplified explanation of trigger points, accompanied by easy-to-understand visuals? Check out this YouTube video, which breaks down all the terminology you struggle to keep straight.

What Is a Trigger Point? Trigger Points Explained

Wizard of Health offers a simple trigger point 101 video on YouTube. The four-minute clip provides a basic definition of trigger points, along with a break-down of the confusing terms included in the typical medical definition. The video also provides a valuable analogy involving an adapter plugged into a socket, which makes it easier to grasp confusing concepts.

Needling Therapies in the Management of Myofascial Trigger Point Pain

Interested in dry needling or acupuncture? This notable study explores the expanding role of these therapies in TPS pain management. Further insight into dry needling can be found in an additional study from the APTA's Physical Therapy journal.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome Support Group

Finding social support for your condition can be a real struggle. Thankfully, multiple support groups exist online. This group from DailyStrength is especially valuable. Browse existing threads or ask the group's 200+ members for input. (Of course, do not engage in any therapy without first consulting a qualified physician.)

The better you understand trigger point-induced pain, the better you can advocate for yourself as a workers' compensation claimant. Smith, Wallis, and Scott can help you every step of the way; contact us today to learn more.

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