What's Causing My Neck and Lower Back Pain After a Car Accident?
After a car accident, you may experience pain in your lower back and neck that can be severe and debilitating. The forces that are released in collisions can cause serious damage to your back and neck. These bodily areas are sensitive to sudden forces and movements and are vital to the proper functioning of your body.
When a vehicle collides with another, physical forces are released that cause everything, including the occupants, to move in the direction of the opposing force.
When your body is suddenly thrown in the direction of the opposing force in a collision, you may be stopped by a variety of different objects, including your seat belt, the dashboard, the car door, or something else that will suddenly stop your momentum. Often, the force released by the object that you strike will propel you backward in a violent motion. This can cause enormous pressure to be placed on your back and neck, resulting in injury.
There are a variety of different types of lower back and neck injuries that can be caused in car accidents. Some of the most common types of neck and back injuries that can happen in car accidents include the following:
- Whiplash injuries
- Lumbar sprains
- Spinal stenosis
- Herniated discs
We'll discuss each of these common types of injuries and then talk about the treatments that may be used for each.Understanding the Spine
To understand why car accidents can cause severe back and neck pain, it is important to understand how the spine and vertebral column work. Your spinal cord is encased by individual vertebrae, which are bony structures that are separated by your spinal discs. The spinal discs are round and composed of cartilage to help to shield and cushion each vertebra so that your bones do not grind together. Spinal discs also aid in your ability to move. When you suffer an injury to one or more of your spinal discs, you may experience intense pain.
This type of pain can happen gradually due to deterioration that might happen over time. It can also be caused by sudden trauma, such as what might occur in a car accident. Most people who experience spinal disc pain experience it in the lower or lumbar region of their spinal columns. This type of pain can be caused by spinal stenosis, lumbar sprains, and disc herniation from car accidents. Whiplash injuries may also cause severe pain in the cervical or upper portion of the spine in the neck.Whiplash
Whiplash injuries are among the most common types of injuries that can occur in car accidents. This type of injury is especially common in rear-end collisions, but whiplash can also occur in other types of accidents. Whiplash injuries are caused by a sudden and violent jerking back and forth of the head and neck. People who suffer from whiplash may suffer damage to all or to any of the following:
- Cervical discs
- Intervertebral joints
- Nerve roots
People with whiplash injuries may not notice symptoms for 24 hours or more after their accidents. The symptoms may range in severity. Severe whiplash cases can cause chronic pain and ongoing issues that can last for a year or longer.
Treatment for whiplash injuries may include pain relievers, cold and heat therapy, physical therapy, injections, ultrasound therapy, and gentle exercise. People who suffer from mild whiplash may recover in as little as a few weeks while others may face chronic and debilitating pain.Lumbar Sprains
In the lower back, lumbar sprains can occur in car accidents when excessive force is applied to the region. Trauma to the lower back can cause the tendons, muscles, and ligaments in your lower back to stretch too far. Often, lumbar sprains or strains are diagnosed based on a doctor's observations and consultations with the patients.
Most lumbar sprains will completely heal within a few weeks. Strains that are more severe may be treated with medication, ice applications during the first 24 hours, and heat applications following that. People may also benefit by undergoing chiropractic care to reduce the muscle spasms and to restore the proper functioning of the spine.Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis occurs when you experience a narrowing of the bony channel that encases your spinal cord and spinal nerves. While spinal stenosis is primarily caused by the natural aging process, it can also occur because of car accident-related trauma. In spinal stenosis that happens as a result of a car accident, you might have a bone fragment or rupture disc that protrudes into the canal and places pressure on your spinal cord or nerves. Spinal stenosis can occur in your neck or in your lower back. When it occurs in your neck, you might experience the following symptoms:
- Difficulty walking
- Balance problems
- Tingling or numbness in your hand, foot, arm, or leg
- Weakness in an extremity
- Bowel or bladder dysfunction in severe cases
When you suffer from spinal stenosis in your lumbar region, you might experience the following symptoms:
- Back pain
- Tingling or numbness in a leg or foot
- Cramping or pain in your legs when you bend forward or when you walk
- Weakness in a leg or foot
In rare cases, the Mayo Clinic reports that severe and untreated spinal stenosis may cause permanent weakness, numbness, incontinence, problems with balance, or paralysis.
The type of treatment that your doctor might recommend for spinal stenosis will depend on its location and its severity. You might receive injections, receive physical therapy, undergo a decompression procedure in which needles are used to remove a portion of a ligament to widen the space, or surgery to remove fragments that might be causing the narrowing or to enlarge the canal.Herniated Discs
Disc herniations are injuries that occur to the spinal discs that separate the vertebrae of your spine. When this happens, it causes the gel-like inner filling of the herniated disc to protrude out through its outer casing. The protruding material may then contact nearby nerves and cause severe pain.
Treatment of herniated discs may vary depending on the severity of your injury. For mild to moderate disc herniations, your doctor may prescribe pain-relieving medications and recommend that you undergo physical therapy. If more conservative treatment options do not work, your doctor might recommend that you undergo surgery to repair the herniation.Getting Diagnosed
Back pain has many causes, making it important for you to promptly see your doctor after a car accident to get a proper diagnosis. The doctors may use imaging technology to diagnose some types of injuries. Others will require that the doctor use other tests. The key is that you need to see your doctor for a thorough medical examination after a car accident even if you do not believe that you suffered any injuries. Some injuries such as whiplash and others might not show symptoms initially. Getting prompt medical attention may aid in your recovery and strengthen any legal claim that you might subsequently file.Getting Legal Help for Car Accident-Related Back and Neck Injuries
If you are suffering severe pain in your back or neck following a recent accident, it is important for you to seek a prompt and accurate diagnosis. If the accident was caused by someone else, you may also have legal rights to recover damages. Contact the Law Offices of Steven M. Sweat today to schedule a free consultation.Sources