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How back injuries can affect mobility

California public servants may experience injuries while on the job that require significant and costly medical care. Even those who are in good physical condition can experience sore muscles and stiffness. You may not realize that this is the result of an injury and not overuse. If your back stiffness has increased to chronic pain, you may have serious damage.

According to The International Association of Fire Fighters, nearly half of all line-of-duty injury retirements result from back injuries.

Lower back anatomy

The lower back contains several anatomic structures that include the following:

  • Lower back muscles and ligaments that provide stability and allow flexibility
  • Lumbar vertebrae that consist of five vertebrae held in place by a complex system of cartilage, ligaments and muscle
  • Small joints that join with adjacent vertebrae
  • The spinal cord and nerves that run through the center of the vertebrae and send messages from the brain to the leg muscles
  • Vertebral discs that are the shock absorbers and stabilizers that protect the lumbar vertebrae

These structures support the top half of your body and allow you to lift and carry heavy objects.

Lower back pain causes

If you damage your lower back, it can limit mobility and result in ongoing, worsening pain. As a firefighter or law enforcement officer, you may experience pain due to various conditions affecting the structures in your lower back. Strains and sprains in your lower back often happen while completing official duties, due to improper lifting, overuse or lack of conditioning in the lower back.

Degenerative disc disease or disc herniation affects the shock absorbers. When damaged, their typical jelly-like center can harden and crack. If it pushes through the outer layer, it can press against the nerves, causing pain. Sciatica is the result of nerve compression or inflammation and can have a variety of causes. An injury or condition that compresses the nerves can result in neuropathy.

Treating any lower back injury early is critical for successful treatment. Over time the central nervous system can become hypersensitive. Sleep issues, depression, anxiety and social isolation can result from lack of or insufficient treatment. Workers’ compensation can help you pay for the medical care you need for your condition. It may also provide compensation for temporary or permanent disability.