The causes of spinal injuries

13 May 2015

Spinal injuries stem from damage caused to the muscles, ligaments, vertebrae and spinal cord through nerve damage, impeded movement, or even paralysis in the event of a severe injury. Treatment and rehabilitation might include surgery and physiotherapy, and the length of time it takes to recover depends on the health, fitness and age of the patient, as well as the severity of the serious injury.

Slips, trips and falls (including at work); road traffic accidents (RTAs); and sporting activities are the main causes of spinal injury in the UK.

Industrial or office accidents

Slips, trips and falls are an attributing factor in 45.5% of all spinal injuries. In the workplace, this kind of accident could be caused by hazardous working conditions, or a failure in health and safety good practice either by the company or a colleague.

For example, manual-handling mistakes can put unnecessary strain on the spine leading to muscle and ligament damage when trying to lift something unwieldy or too heavy. This can be avoided with proper instruction on manual handling as part of an employee’s induction when starting work.

Other accidents at work that can cause spinal injury include being struck or crushed by vehicles or heavy equipment. Again an adequate health and safety provision, including training, can help to reduce the risks to staff.

Road accidents

After a trip or fall being involved in an RTA is the next biggest cause of spinal injuries, attributing for 39.2% of recorded injuries. Suffering from an RTA as a pedestrian, passenger or driver can cause massive amounts of damage to the spine.

Sudden impacts and jarring motions as the result of a crash can cause injury to the muscles, ligaments and vertebrae in and around the spine. Again the severity of the injury suffered has a number of influencing factors.

Location, speed, seatbelts, and other factors influence in how severely someone is injured.

Sporting injuries

It isn’t just full contact sports such as rugby that can cause damage to the spine – sporting injuries can lead to a number of problems. Muscle and ligament strains and tears can cause painful and long lasting damage to the spine in athletes from all sporting disciplines. In fact, sporting injuries contribute to 10.2% of spinal injuries.

Muscle damage or injuries to the ligaments around the spine can cause persistent aches and pains at their least severe, or surgery and lengthy rehabilitation to recover fully. Some spinal injuries caused during sporting events can permanently affect the quality of life of the injured party.

Prognosis and recovery

Each patient and their injury are unique, so there is no way to know how long it will take to recover or what medical care will be required. You can find out more about different types of spinal injuries – how they affect the body and what treatment options are available – on this spinal injury infographic.

 Contact us if you’d like to know more about a claim for compensation, especially if your injury wasn’t your fault.