You’ve been in a fall accident or tripped and fallen down some stairs. Any fall like this—or any other fall—can have serious consequences. Here are some symptoms you should be on the lookout for and what they might mean—and when you want to call a slip and fall lawyer for help paying for them.
One of the most common injuries after a fall that involves striking the head is a concussion. Concussions can also occur when an impact violently shakes the head or upper body, causing the brain to strike against the skull.
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that can often damage the rest of your life. Witnesses to the fall may note a temporary loss of consciousness, even though the victim may not be aware they got knocked out.
The headaches you feel after a fall—or a post-concussion headache—can vary in intensity and type. They can feel like simple tension headaches or like severe migraines. Further, they may not result just from the concussion or blow to the head. There may also have been a neck injury that occurred during the fall, and it may be causing the headaches.
Severe Pain Or Pain That Doesn’t Go Away
Acute pain is the pain you feel immediately after an injury. It is the body’s way of attracting your attention to the injury and demanding relief. After a typical fall, the pain may last a few days to a few months. Severe pain is a sign that you should seek medical attention right away. You may have a fracture or nerve damage, or another injury requiring immediate attention.
If your pain lingers long after you’ve recovered from your injuries, you should consult with pain specialists. Ignoring chronic pain will not make it go away, and it may well get worse as time goes by
The type of back pain you may experience will depend on the type of fall you had. Regardless of the type of fall, however, the pain may result from the fall or the aggravation of an existing condition by the impact. A variety of injuries can cause post-fall pain. Some of these are:
Cervical Spine Injuries
You may have fractured or dislocated one of the vertebrae in the neck. This injury creates a very unstable condition surrounding the spine and may require surgical correction.
A broken bone in your spine will cause intense pain, especially when the fracture results from falling backward. Broken bones in the back may be simple fractures or so severe that it virtually shatters the bone.
Whiplash & Soft Tissue Injuries
Falls can cause muscle strains and pulled tendons and ligaments. In addition to the pain, you may also experience swelling or loss of easy movement. The most well-known soft tissue injury is whiplash. This injury occurs most often in car accidents, but a severe fall can cause the same strong movements that injure the soft tissues of the back and neck.
Bulging Or Herniated Discs
The spinal discs sit between the vertebrae and cushion the joints where they meet. Although injuries to your discs are rare in a fall, they can be crushed, squeezing out their soft centers, and compressing nearby nerves. This compression can cause pain, tingling, weakness, and numbness, as well as pain. Treatment can be relatively simple or can result in significant medical expenses, loss of wages, and permanent impairment of money.
Sometimes the herniation can affect the entire spinal cord. The symptoms to watch out for are pain, numbness, or weakness that doesn’t get better or begins to interfere with your daily activities. If certain areas are affected, you can also experience problems with incontinence or with urinating even when your bladder is full.
Finally, you may develop what is called saddle anesthesia, a progressive loss of sensation in the areas of your body that would touch a saddle—the inner thighs, the backs of your legs, and the area around your rectum. You should seek immediate emergency medical care if you detect these symptoms.
Note that even if the fall didn’t cause a herniated disc, it could aggravate one you already have.
The sciatic nerve runs from your spine down through your legs and provides feeling and control in your legs. If that nerve is injured or irritated in your fall, you may experience lower back pain. That pain may extend down through the legs. You may also suffer from tingling or numbness in the legs or lower back, or even sudden shooting pain in either place. In case of severe injury to the nerve, loss of feeling or paralysis of the lower body can occur. There is no common length of time for this injury to heal.
Dizziness, Balance Problems, And Vertigo
Another common symptom of a fall that leads to a head injury is dizziness. This condition can result from, among other causes, debris in the inner ear from the accident. The debris moves around in the inner ear and causes feelings of dizziness and vertigo by telling your brain you are in motion when you aren’t. Dizziness after a fall can also result from the injury itself if you have suffered a concussion. The dizziness and vertigo are treatable, but your doctor must ascertain the cause before they can apply any effective treatment.
Medical science can view the source of vertigo as structural, neurological, or metabolic. Thus, your doctor needs to address all three to completely treat your dizziness or vertigo. Medical treatment may not be effective if the nerves continue to send bad signals to your brain from structural injuries in the neck or inner ear.
A fall with a concussion can also result in a loss of balance. The problem with that is that the most common consequence of the loss of balance is a tendency to fall again, leading to another traumatic brain injury or broken bones.
The loss of balance is often caused by:
- Medications prescribed for your injuries
- Blood pressure that drops when standing suddenly
- Vision problems after a fall
- Problems with the sense of touch
- Problems with the inner ear balance organs
Because of the high risk of further injury, you must report a loss of balance to a medical professional.
Swelling is a natural reaction of your body to an injury. It will occur in the area of your injury—or where you landed—and may be accompanied by bruising or tenderness to the touch. Swelling is initially helpful after an injury by bringing body healing factors to the site of the injury and by partially immobilizing the injured area.
On the other hand, it is also bad because it destroys and stretches your tissues, possibly further damaging them. In the ordinary course, swelling will get worse over the first few days after your fall but can last as much as three months. If swelling lasts much longer than three months, you should get medical attention for it.
Ringing In The Ears Or Tinnitus
The most common cause of ringing in the ears or tinnitus after a fall is a misalignment of the three small bones in the inner ear that are central to the transmission of sound. The displacement that occurs during a head injury can result in hearing loss, or more commonly, tinnitus.
Another fall injury that can cause ringing in the ear results from damage to the joint where the lower jaw joins the skull. This joint shares nerves and ligaments with the middle ear. Thus, an injury to this joint can also cause tinnitus. If your injury is there, you are likely to be experiencing pain in your face or jaw, limited movement in your jaw joint, and popping sounds from the joint when it moves. Most of the time, treating the injury to the joint will cure the tinnitus.
Other less common ear injuries from a fall can include a concussion to the cochlea, resulting in hearing loss and tinnitus. Another rare symptom after a fall is Meniere’s syndrome, a buildup of pressure within the inner ear that causes excessive movement of the fluids in the inner ear. This syndrome can cause hearing loss and tinnitus. There is no cure, but medications such as steroids can help control the symptoms. Finally, damage to the hair-like cells in the inner ear or the auditory nerve can also cause hearing and tinnitus loss.
Medicine does not fully understand the connection between hearing loss and tinnitus. One factor is that the loss of the ability to hear certain sound frequencies can change how the brain processes sound in general. In other words, the brain adapts to the loss of external sound by creating its own sounds to make up for the loss.
Internal bleeding from the liver or spleen can cause stomach or abdominal pain after a fall. The pain will get worse and may be accompanied by swelling and light-headedness when enough blood is lost. Even if the liver or spleen goes undamaged, a fall can severely bruise the abdominal wall.
A sufficiently severe injury to the abdominal wall can also cause internal bleeding and shock, which together can kill you. Most fall injuries that cause stomach pain result from falls from a significant height or a severe blow to the abdomen. Symptoms to particularly watch for also include hardness or tenderness of the abdomen, both a symptom of internal bleeding.
Blurred Vision And Light Sensitivity
Blurred or double vision is common after a head injury from a fall. They often result from injuries to the muscles and nerves, which cause problems in the eyes working together. The blurred vision can also indicate a more serious problem when accompanied by migraines or vertigo.
Sensitivity to light can also occur following a head injury in a fall. Certain kinds of light such as bright sunlight and fluorescent lighting can increase the sensitivity, as can computer screens.
In the most extreme cases, head injuries can cause complete or partial vision loss. The victim may develop blind spots in the peripheral vision or have reduced vision in parts of the visual field. Sometimes this is caused by a direct injury to the eye that may be visible and indicated by lacerations, broken blood vessels, or bruising and swelling. Less commonly, the loss of vision may result from an injury to the brain itself.
Difficulty Concentrating Or Remembering
Those who suffer from concussions or other traumatic brain injuries can experience difficulty concentrating or thinking, confusion, and even memory loss or loss of balance. This loss of memory is called post-traumatic amnesia. It can last for a few minutes or a few months, depending on the severity of the fall.
Victims of a concussion in a fall may also experience difficulty in concentrating. Sometimes this “fog” sets in immediately after the injury; for others, it may take days or months to appear. The slower onset may result from your brain attempting to adapt to injuries it received during the fall. Usually, the brain fog will appear within a week or so of the fall and disappear within three months. Doctors focus treatment on managing the symptoms.
Among other accidents, nausea can result from a concussion. Nausea may be short-term in association with an acute concussion or might be a longer-lasting condition after recovering from the traumatic brain injury. In any case, nausea after a fall is almost always a sign of brain injury, and you should never ignore it.
Feeling fatigued after a fall most commonly results from a concussion. Your brain is running on low energy. As a result, everything takes a little more time and effort than usual, making you feel tired and lacking energy. Your brain is not, at this moment, able to multi-task and is processing things more slowly. The extra mental effort required can make you become rapidly fatigued and feel overloaded.
Symptoms from a fall may not be immediately apparent after the fall. Headaches or other pain and symptoms may appear over the next day or so. Many of the symptoms discussed above, particularly where a concussion is involved, may show up after the fall and continue for some time.
- Memory problems
- Mood changes
- Sleep disturbances
- Balance problems
If these symptoms develop in the days following your fall, you should seek medical help right away. Then, if someone else’s negligence contributed to the accident, call a Bronx slip and fall lawyer to help you recover compensation.