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Back Pain: Is it really going to affect us all?

By Principal Lawyer, Occupiers and Public Liability

I was speaking to a friend recently who has suffered with back pain since his early 30s. He recently underwent an operation to partially remove a disc to his cervical spine or the neck region as he was suffering from significant pain before the operation. My friend has always led an active life and he has always been fit and healthy. He is not of an age where you would expect a significant back condition. After this conversation I considered if at some stage we are all going to suffer from back pain. I have been reliably informed by a spinal surgeon that the back is generally a very stable structure and so long as we lead a normal healthy life, it should support us well into our advancing years. Unfortunately none of us are getting any younger. Few of us lead what might be termed as a ‘normal’ and ‘healthy’ life. We generally fail to look after ourselves which is very common and somewhat understandable given the pressures of everyday life.

Much, therefore depends also upon genetics. What extent are we more prone to suffer a back condition because of our genetic make-up? Likewise, to what extent have we been involved in regular physical activity which places a great deal of pressure upon our back and other parts of the body. Especially in more physically demanding activity such as playing rugby or more compulsory activity for some, such as lifting heavy boxes, these types of accident can occur. With all this in mind, accidents do of course occur. They can quite easily involve the spine and when they do, it is correct to obtain a report from a consultant orthopaedic surgeon and sometimes from a surgeon with great speciality involving the spine. What is not unusual is for the consultant to comment, as he must do, to allow compensation to be assessed. In the absence of the accident in question, would the injured party have complained of some degree of back pain in the future? The question therefore is if the accident is removed entirely from the equation, would back pain have occurred at some point in the future anyway? If so, would that back pain have been very similar in nature to the back pain suffered after the accident.Eventually, our backs will naturally break down, depending upon circumstances. If there was a history of back pain prior to the accident, it is not unusual for a consultant to suggest that, in the absence of the accident, back pain would have been complained of in say 5-7 years. Furthermore, had this been the case, it is likely on balance to have had a similar effect upon the injured persons career, causing them to go onto light duties, or even retire early. Such comments are vitally important in a claim. If the back symptoms complained of after an accident are so severe as to prevent someone from returning to work, and if a consultant suggests that such severe symptoms would have occurred in any event, the claim will be limited by this 10 year period. It can therefore be argued that if the accident had not occurred, the same course of events would have been followed with time off work, medical retirement etc. some 10 years later. Having said this, much depends upon the personal circumstances of the case however the unique and important issues involving injuries to the back should never be underestimated.

Tristan Hallam is a Principal Lawyer (Partner) in Personal Injury in the London office of Slater and Gordon Lawyers. If you or a member of your family has suffered an accident or injury call our expert personal injury solicitors on 0800 916 9046, fill in our short online enquiry form or email and one of our specialist personal injury team will review your compensation claim for free.