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An overview of back injuries

Back injuries are one of the most common types of personal injury suffered in the UK. More than 80% of people experience lower back pain at some time in their lives and many also suffer with pain in the upper back.

A back injury could be a result of any number of accidents or incidents including: an accident at work, a car accident, a sporting injury, long periods of sitting or standing, continuous bending and poor posture. Read more about scenarios in which a personal injury may occur.

Nurses are especially vulnerable to back injury as a result of lifting patients. Every year, around 80,000 nurses complain of some kind of back injury and around 3,600 are forced to retire from their profession as a result.

Back injury causes

The back is a complex structure made up of the spinal column containing the delicate spinal cord, the rear parts of the ribs, the iliac and the sacrum below. The bones are covered with thick muscle for protection yet still allow flexibility of movement.

The spinal column of an adult consists of around 33 vertebrae between which are discs of a cartilage type outer and gel-like centre with a shock absorbent function.

A back injury could be anything from bruising and ligament tears to slipped discs and fractured vertebrae or even a spinal cord injuries leading to paralysis.

General back injury symptoms

Common back injuries

The five most commonly experienced back injuries will be discussed below and include: facet syndrome, sacro iliac joint dysfunction, lower back stress fractures, slipped discs and sciatica.

Facet syndrome

The facet joints can be found on either side of the intervertebral joints (the central joints between the discs and the vertebral bodies).

An acute episode of facet joint pain may be caused by sudden excessive movement such as a car accident. However, facet pain is usually persistent and a result of long term changes in the joint.

Symptoms of facet syndrome include pain, stiffness and locking of the joints. Pain usually occurs to just one side of the spine and can be worsened by bending towards the affected side or bending backwards.

Sacro Iliac Joint Dysfunction

The sacro iliac joints can be found at the back of the pelvis and inflammatory joint disease or a traumatic accident could cause pain in this region.

Aching at the base of the spine on the affected side, instability and locking of the joints are common symptoms. Pain may increase when sitting, bending, lifting or standing from a seated position.

Lower back stress fractures

Lower back stress fractures are also known as spondylolysis. These are overuse injuries and are often sustained by sportsmen and adolescents.

The main symptoms are instability and aches and pains to the lower back, which can be aggravated by sporting activities and bending backwards.

Specialists usually prescribe complete rest for about 6 weeks followed by a programme of rehabilitation.

Slipped discs

This is another common sports injury although repeated bending and lifting can also lead to degeneration of the outer layer of the disc. This can eventually cause the gel-like nucleus to proplase out of the disc.

Pain, stiffness, weakness and instability are all associated with slipped discs. The onset of pain is likely to be sudden and severe and can be worsened by sitting, coughing and sneezing. Slipped discs that press on a nerve root to one side can also cause pain and tingling through the buttock and legs.


The sciatic nerve runs from the lower part of the spine down the back of both legs to the feet and forms what is effectively an 'electrical cable' to and from the brain.

Sciatica is a condition that stems from the spine via the sciatic nerve and causes pain, weakness or altered sensation to the buttock, hamstring, calf or foot on one or both sides. Symptoms include cramping, a tightening sensation in the muscles, and constant shooting pains.

Back injury diagnosis and treatment

Methods of diagnosis for particular back injuries include:

Compensation amounts for back injuries

It is rare for a back injury to qualify fro compensation above 25,000 unless paralysis is suffered. However, those that do qualify for a higher award have special features. Estimations of compensation amounts for different types of back injury are outlined below:

Minor back injuries

These may include strains, sprains, disc prolapses and soft tissue injuries form which a full recovery or recovery to 'nuisance' level has been made without the need of surgery:

Within about two years - up to 4,250

Within about five years - 4,250 to 7,500

Moderate back injuries

Commonly experienced injuries such as disturbance of ligaments and muscles leading to backache, soft tissue injuries resulting in exacerbation of an existing back condition or prolapsed discs needing laminectomy or resulting in repeated relapses may be classed as moderate injuries.

The exact compensation amount is determined by the severity of the original injury and/or whether there is some permanent chronic disability - 6,750 to 15,250.

These are cases where residual disability may occur but is usually less severe. Examples of such back injuries include a crush fracture of the lumbar vertebrae where there is substantial risk of osteoarthritis and constant pain and discomfort with impairment of sexual function; that of a traumatic spondylolisthesis with continuous pain and the probability that spinal fusion will be needed; or that of a prolapsed intervertebral disc with substantial acceleration of back degeneration - 15,250 to 21,500.

Severe back injuries

Less severe back injuries include disc lesions, disc fractures and fractures of the vertebral bodies which, despite treatment, have lead to residual severe pain and discomfort, impaired agility, impaired sexual function, depression, personality alterations, alcoholism, unemployability and an increased risk of arthritis - 21,500 to 38,000.

Back injuries that include special features such as impaired bladder and bowel function, severe sexual difficulties and unsightly scarring and the possibility of future surgery - in the region of 45,000.

The most severe back injuries which do not involve paralysis but where other serious consequences occur such as impotence or double incontinence - 55,000 to 93,000.

Making a compensation claim for a personal injury today

Our personal injury solicitors have a wealth of experience in dealing with claims for all types of conditions, especially back injuries, and are accredited by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. Read more about APIL.

If you have suffered a back injury through no fault of your own and believe that you are entitled to personal injury compensation then we may be able to help.

Our claim advisors can do an assessment of your claim and inform you of your eligibility for compensation. Our personal injury solicitors will then provide you with free legal advice and talk you through each stage of the claim process, fighting to get you the most compensation available.

We work on a no win, no fee basis. What this means is that, in the event your case is not successful, you won't be charged a penny. It means that making a claim is a completely risk free process - this lets you focus on getting better, not worrying about money. Read more about making a no win no fee personal injury claim.

Making a personal injury compensation claim couldn't be easier just give fill out one of our online forms or give us a call on 0800 197 32 32.