In the human body, the back is a critical location for the nervous, muscular, and skeletal systems.
The spinal cord extends from the base of the brain down the back. It’s responsible for sending signals along nerve fibers to and from the rest of the body. Because nerves are very fragile, the spinal cord is protected by the vertebrae, the bones of the spinal column. These are shaped like cylinders of bone with a hollow passage in the middle, resembling donuts or spools of thread. These cylinders are stacked, one on another, to form the backbone or spinal column. In between each pair of vertebrae are spinal discs, rings of a jellylike substance that cushion the bones and prevent them from grating on each other. The spinal cord passes through the spinal column. At each gap in the vertebrae, branches of nerves extend from the spinal cord to the limbs.
While the bones and supporting muscles of the back do a reasonably good job protecting the nerves from harm, this protection is not perfect. Sudden jostling or traumatic injury can damage the muscles, bones, or nerves here. In particular, the violence of a North Carolina motor vehicle accident can inflict severe back injuries. In fact, estimates suggest that automobile accidents account for 40 percent of all new spinal cord injuries in the United States. Motorcycle riders face the highest level of risk; a 2002 study reported in the Journal of Trauma found that spinal injuries occurred in just over 11 percent of all riders involved in accidents.
The scope of spine injuries after a vehicle accident in New Hanover County
Without a doubt, the most feared result of an accident-related spine injury is paralysis. The sudden impact of a vehicle collision can fracture the vertebrae and damage the spinal cord—even, in the worst cases, severing the spine or thrusting bone shards into the nerves. Because nerve cells have a very poor ability to repair themselves, injury to the spinal column often means a lasting inability to move arms, hands, legs, or feet, and a corresponding loss of sensation in the limbs. The patient may lose control of the bowel or bladder. If the injury is high enough on the neck, the patient may not even be able to breathe on his own and will require the use of a ventilator for the rest of his life.
Other, less catastrophic spine injuries are possible. These include:
- Whiplash. When sudden acceleration (or deceleration) forces the neck muscles to extend, whiplash injuries can result. Damage to soft tissues can mean lasting pain: up to one in five whiplash victims still suffer two years after the accident.
- Herniated or ruptured discs. When damage occurs to the discs that separate the bones of the spine, they may bulge or burst. This may cause tremendous pain when pressure builds on the spinal nerves or the spinal cord itself, or from the grating of bone against bone in the spinal column. Surgery is often required to repair these injuries.
- Spinal stenosis. Stenosis is a narrowing of the central tube running through the spinal column, or narrowing of the gaps between vertebrae where spinal nerves extend to other parts of the body. As the bone narrows, it pinches the nerves passing through. The patient may experience numbness, weakness, cramps, general pain in the arms or legs, or sciatica—a searing pain extending down the leg.
- Pinched nerves. A compressed or “pinched” nerve can occur directly from the injury to a nerve fiber or because of damage to bone or muscle in the spinal column. The pressure can cause pain at the location of the injury or “referred pain” that seems to radiate from another spot. If pinched nerves are not treated promptly, fluid may build up in nearby tissue, leading to scarring of the nerve and diminished function.
Recovery for your loss
Spinal cord injuries can be tragic results from traffic accidents in North Carolina. Even with surgery and thousands of dollars in rehabilitation expenses, many victims never recover 100 percent of their health.
If you have suffered a back or spine injury from a North Carolina vehicle accident that was not your fault, you have thousands of reasons to seek compensation for your losses from the person responsible for your condition. Call 910-341-7570 locally or 877-593-4233 toll-free anywhere in the state and one of our Wilmington auto accident lawyers will schedule a FREE appointment to discuss your case. Just for calling, we’d be pleased to send you a copy of Clarke Speaks’s book, The North Carolina Auto Injury Book, which will explain how our aggressive legal approach is suited to getting you the largest cash recovery available.