Car accidents can result in a wide range of serious injuries, but back injuries are some of the more prevalent. The harsh impact of your car against another vehicle or structure can place great strain on your back and contort it into painful positions.
Whether you experienced minor whiplash from a car accident or a severe spinal cord injury, you shouldn’t need to pay your medical bills out of pocket. An experienced attorney can help you seek compensation for a back injury from a car accident.
But the first step in securing compensation is understanding the severity of your back injury. Learn about the common types of back injuries from car accidents, their symptoms, and possible treatment options.
Whiplash is a relatively common back injury from car accidents. It happens when the impact of the accident causes your head to jerk back and forth quickly. While whiplash is technically a neck injury, car accidents can also cause whiplash to affect the upper back.
Discomfort from mild whiplash may subside after a few days, but unfortunately, more severe cases often lead to chronic neck pain.
Whiplash can produce a wide range of symptoms affecting the neck and upper back. Common whiplash symptoms may include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Headaches that start at the base of the skull
- Loss of range of motion in the neck
- Tenderness in the upper back
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Neck pain that worsens with neck movement
The treatment you’ll undergo for whiplash depends on the severity of your symptoms. If your pain is minor, you can begin by taking over-the-counter painkillers like Tylenol or Motrin. Apply ice to your neck and upper back to temporarily relieve the pain.
If your pain worsens or doesn’t improve with time, a physician may recommend physical therapy or prescription painkillers. Some cases also improve with injections in the neck.
Even a minor car accident can injure the intervertebral discs of your spinal cord. Discogenic pain is a type of lower back pain that sometimes occurs after car accidents or with age.
There are a few different types of discogenic pain that may occur from a car accident. For example, spinal disc herniation occurs when the center of a spinal cord disc pushes through a tear in the exterior casing of the spinal cord. And while degenerative disc syndrome won’t result from a car accident, it can worsen with the impact of a crash.
You may be experiencing discogenic pain if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Upper back pain after a car accident
- Middle back pain after a car accident
- Pain when bending forward, coughing, sneezing, or sitting
- Neck pain when you tilt your head
- Muscle spasms in the arms or neck while moving the upper or lower body
- Pain in the backs of your thighs or buttocks
Herniated discs can also cause tingling and numbness in the back, arms, and legs.
Depending on the severity of your discogenic pain, you may be able to manage symptoms with over-the-counter medications, including painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs. Your symptoms may improve with physical therapy and muscle-strengthening exercises.
Particularly severe discogenic pain may require intradiscal electrothermal therapy (IDET), which is a minimally invasive treatment that may provide some pain relief.
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
Rear-end collisions sometimes cause a spinal injury known as sacroiliac joint dysfunction, which is the improper movement of the sacroiliac joints. The sacroiliac joint connects the lower sacrum to the pelvis. If you’re experiencing lower back pain after a car accident, this condition may be the culprit.
Dysfunction of the sacroiliac joints may lead to symptoms like:
- Lower back pain
- Leg pain
- Stiffness in the lower back, pelvis, hips, or groin
- Difficulty walking up stairs or bending at the waist
Mild sacroiliac joint dysfunction may resolve on its own within a few days or weeks. If yours doesn’t, you may need physical therapy to regain your range of motion in the lower back and hips.
If you still experience back pain months after your car accident, you may eventually need surgery to fuse the sacroiliac joint, which would completely eliminate movement in this joint and prevent painful motions.
Spinal stenosis is another example of a back injury from a car accident that can be difficult to diagnose. This condition often occurs due to age-related wear and tear, which is why some clinicians may not connect it to car accident injuries.
Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal, which puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves and can worsen even low-impact car accident back injuries.
If you’re suffering from spinal stenosis, you may experience symptoms like:
- Pain in the neck and lower back
- Muscle weakness
- Impaired bladder or bowel control
Sometimes, spinal stenosis does not produce any noticeable symptoms until the condition has progressed.
Spinal stenosis can last anywhere from a few weeks to many years. This condition is generally treatable; treatment may include medication, physical therapy, or surgery.
Lumbar Sprains and Their Effects
The lumbar spine is the lower region of your spine. If you’re experiencing lower back spasms after a car accident, you may have a lumbar sprain that requires treatment from a physician to heal.
Lumbar sprains occur when the spinal ligaments tear away from their attachments, leading to damaged tendons and sore muscles.
A lumbar sprain may produce the following symptoms:
- Lower back pain after the car accident that radiates to your buttocks, but does not impact your legs
- Muscle spasms with activity or while at rest
- Inability to maintain normal posture
- Stiffness in your lower back
- Restricted range of motion in your lower back
- Pain that persists for a maximum of 14 days
Sprains can sometimes heal on their own. Avoid bed rest; instead, participate in low-impact activities that strengthen the lumbar muscles.
If your lumbar pain doesn’t go away, you may need physical therapy. Your doctor may prescribe pain medications or muscle relaxants to help you manage pain during therapy.
Recognizing the Signs of Sciatica
Sciatica is a type of nerve pain that can occur due to a range of back injuries. It’s not a condition in itself; instead, it’s a symptom of another condition.
Sciatic nerve pain is very common, affecting more than three million people across the U.S. each year. But like any type of nerve pain, it can be challenging to diagnose and treat.
Sciatic nerve pain often follows the path from the lower back to the buttocks or the back of the thighs. Pain may feel like a mild ache or a sharp, burning pang resembling an electric shock.
One distinguishing symptom of sciatic pain is that it often only affects one side of the body. Along with the shooting or aching pain, you may also experience muscle weakness, numbness, or tingling.
Mild sciatica typically resolves on its own. If yours lasts longer than a week, seek medical attention. Your physician may recommend various therapies, such as massages, acupuncture, or physical therapy. If pain continues, you may benefit from epidural steroid injections.
Treatment Approaches for Post-Accident Discomfort
Many treatments are available for spine injuries from car accidents. Instead of trying to gauge your condition on your own, schedule a medical exam after your car accident to assess your injuries and determine the right treatment.
Your physician may recommend:
- Applying ice to the affected area
- Alternating ice and heat
- Undergoing physical therapy
- Taking over-the-counter painkillers, anti-inflammatories, or muscle relaxants
These activities may help ease your discomfort while the body works to heal your back injuries. You may be able to streamline your recovery by participating in low-impact exercises, like walking or running on a treadmill, if your doctor gives you the okay. Doing so can help you stretch and strengthen the muscles and tendons near the painful area instead of allowing them to become even more stiff.
Seek Assistance from an Experienced Car Accident Attorney
Are you dealing with a back injury from a car accident? Trying to navigate an insurance claim or lawsuit at the same time may feel overwhelming. Instead, rely on the car accident attorneys at Sadaka Law to take your case off your shoulders while you take time to recover.
We can help you gather evidence to support your claim, communicate with the insurance company and at-fault party, and navigate the legal process. Fill out the online form below to request a consultation.