Back and Neck Injuries After Car Accident
Back and neck injuries after a car accident are an unfortunate fact of life. At Sterling Medical Group, our sole focus is on delivering the treatment of neck and back injuries, so you can get back to living a pain-free life.
We have treated thousands of patients with situations similar to you. They were working and living healthy lives until an unfortunate car accident caused them to experience neck and back pain. Many of these patients thought they wouldn’t find the care they needed until they had their first appointment with us.
Because we specialize in treating neck and back pain after accidents, we are well-equipped to handle your injury. At Sterling Medical Group, you’ll have access to a care team that includes the following professionals:
- Orthopedic specialists
- Pain management specialists
- A case manager to help you each step of the way
- Bi-lingual staff members are available
We have the experience to treat your back and neck injuries!
About Your Spine
Before launching into our look at back and neck injuries, let’s take a look at the definitions we’ll be referring to because this will give you a greater understanding as you read on.
- Cervical Spine: The cervical spine is located in your neck. The vertebrae in this section of your spine support your neck and head. This is the section that’s the root of neck pain.
- Facet Joints: Facet joints are the joints in the back that give your back the ability to swivel, bend, and twist. They have tissue called cartilage around them as well as fluid to cushion them from each other so that they move smoothly, without crushing together.
- Lumbar Spine: The lumbar spine refers to the vertebrae of your lower back. When you hear a doctor refer to lumbar pain, they are saying lower back pain.
- Spinal Cord: Your central nervous system is controlled by your spinal cord. This is a group of nerves that run through a canal through the middle of your vertebrae and deliver impulses to all parts of your body.
- Thoracic Spine: The middle section of your spine, from above the lumbar spine to below the cervical spine is the thoracic spine. This is the part of your spine that gives your body the structure needed for walking.
- Vertebrae: The vertebrae are small bones that house your spinal cord. Their primary function is to protect the spinal cord. However, they are needed structure for standing, walking, and movement of your body as well.
Symptoms of Back and Neck Injuries After a Car Accident
You’ve been in a car wreck, now you need to know the symptoms to watch out for. Sometimes, you will feel the pain immediately, and you know you need help right away.
On the other hand, some symptoms don’t become apparent for hours or even weeks. This could mean that you mistake the symptoms for something else. A common example of this is a car accident victim thinking a headache is the result of stress from the accident when they actually have a cervical spinal injury.
These are very dangerous because patients often let these go untreated as they are unaware that they even have a back or neck injury. The sooner you seek medical treatment after being involved in an auto accident, the better chance you will have of making a full recovery.
Immediate Symptoms of Back and Neck Injuries:
- Extreme feeling of pain in neck, back, or head
- Inability to move your fingers or toes
- Tingling, burning sensations, or numbness in any part of your body
- The immediate onset of a headache
- Inability to walk or loss of balance
- Unable to control bowels or bladder
- Difficulty in breathing
- Finding yourself in an unnatural, awkward, or twisted position after impact
The chances are high that if you sustained a spinal cord injury of this nature, you were transported for emergency treatment. While the emergency team treated life-threatening symptoms, you will need further care to aid you with pain management and rehabilitation.
Delayed Symptoms of Neck and Back Injuries:
- Headaches up to several days after a car accident
- Belly pain, tenderness, swelling, or bruising
- Weakness or inability to lift relatively light things
- Pain or pinching sensations in the shoulders, neck, or back
- Feelings of tingling or numbness that doesn’t subside in the arms, hands, or fingers
- Decreased hearing or vision
- Developing feelings of stress, anxiety, or inexplicable panic
What Causes Delayed Back Pain After a Car Accident?
The human body is complicated. No two injuries are exactly alike, but we can help explain why you experienced your delayed back pain after your car accident.
The first reason this can happen is the human body’s natural Fight or Flight Response. During such a stressful event as a car wreck, your body will release adrenaline into your bloodstream to help you fight the situation. Because that extra adrenaline pumps through your veins for the first few hours, you have a higher pain tolerance and might not notice the injury. It’s not until that adrenaline drops back to normal levels that you feel your back and neck injuries.
The second reason for delayed back pain is physical. It can take hours for external symptoms such as bruising or swelling to appear and for the discomfort of inflammation to set in. It’s only after you realize you have these symptoms that you begin to realize that you associate your delayed pain with a back or neck injury from your car accident.
Types of Back and Neck Injuries Caused by Car Accidents
The majority of neck and back pain resulting from a car wreck is caused by the whipping motion that is caused by the force of impact. This whipping motion is commonly called whiplash. You can feel the effect of whiplash from the neck to the lower back, and the pain can vary from minor to severe. Whiplash is the cause of the injury, not a specific diagnosis.
Recovery time varies depending on the severity of your injury. Here are some of the more common back and neck injuries after a car accident.
Feeling lower back pain that’s hard to pinpoint after a car accident? That’s a common symptom of lumbar sprain. The strong and sudden force of a car accident causes damage to the muscles and surrounding tissue in the back, causing lower back pain. This particular lower back pain is common back pain after being rear ended in a collision.
Doctors will diagnose this through clinical evaluation and experience. X-rays for this injury are often inconclusive.
Lumbar Spine Injuries
Lumbar spine injuries occur in the lower back. These are painful injuries that require expert care. They can range from spinal cord injuries such as fractures that require surgery to sciatica that can be treated through physical therapy or other less invasive procedures. These are diagnosed by a series of clinical evaluations including X-ray or MRI. The pain ranges from extremely uncomfortable to excruciating sensations from the lower back through the toes. All symptoms indicate an injury and must be evaluated by a doctor.
An untreated back injury can lead to a condition called spinal stenosis. It’s a progressive disease that will worsen over time if you don’t seek help.
Your spinal cord is housed in a channel through your vertebrae. Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of this channel. This adds pressure that forces the vertebrae outwards while pinching the nerves inside the channel. This most commonly affects the neck or the lumbar region.
Symptoms you’ll feel from this occurring in the neck include tingling in the arm or fingers, neck stiffness, or trouble lifting light objects. The symptoms you’ll feel from spinal stenosis in the lumbar region include pain or tingling from the legs to the toes, lower back stiffness or pain, sore hips, or in extreme cases, the loss of bladder or bowel control.
Doctors will evaluate your symptoms and order a series of imaging to diagnose back pain of this nature.
Your vertebrae are cushioned from jarring against each other by spongy structures called vertebral discs. Consider them your body’s own shock absorbers. Disc herniation in car accidents is not uncommon as the force of whiplash can compress these structures or knock them out of alignment. You may hear this injury also referred to as a herniated disc or slipped disc.
Disc herniation can occur anywhere along the spinal cord and is one of the more common causes of middle back pain after a car accident.
Depending on how badly you’re injured, the treatment for this ranges from surgery to replace the disc for the most severe injury to physical therapy for the least severity. When undiagnosed, disc herniation can lead to other degenerative spinal disorders in the future.
The doctor will diagnose disc herniation through x-rays, MRI, and a clinical evaluation.
Thoracic Spine Injuries
Thoracic spine injuries can occur from the middle back to the upper back. These can cause terrible middle back pain to upper back pain. Injuries can be fractures, disc herniations, or even paralysis in the worst cases. Thoracic spine injuries can be especially traumatic because your vertebrae are narrower in the thoracic section than in the lumbar or cervical sections.
Your doctor will determine a diagnosis and help you with a treatment plan to correct your injuries as well as guide you on pain management.
Facet Joint Injuries
Facet joint injuries after a car accident can leave you with immediate pain. It also can lead to the future development of a degenerative spinal disorder called facet joint syndrome. It can become debilitating if left unattended.
Injury can happen to the facet joint itself. However, injury can also occur that damages the cartilage that cushions the facet joints or causes the fluid that lubricates the joints to leak.
These injuries are diagnosed by extensive evaluation and imaging.
Evaluating Your Back and Neck Pain
Your doctors will rely on every tool available in diagnosing your neck and back injuries. They will do a clinical evaluation in which they ask you questions, order imaging such as X-Rays, MRI, or CT scans, and perhaps even order lab work to rule out other diagnoses such as viral infections.
The process can be scary. After all, you’ve already dealt with the trauma of a car accident! But, it can help when you know what to expect. In addition, you will have an assigned case manager to communicate with and throughout the rehabilitation process. This will make you feel more at ease to focus on your wellness.
A few questions the doctor might need to know are as follows:
- Do you have a prior history of back pain or injury?
- Where is the pain located?
- How severe is the pain on a scale of 1 to 10?
- What kind of collision were you involved in? A rear end collision or a side impact collision?
- When was the car accident?
- How fast were the cars going?
While it can be difficult to relive those details, these questions will help the doctor determine the nature and severity of your injury and set up a treatment plan. Answer these questions openly and honestly. Rest assured, your medical history is confidential. The doctors at Sterling Medical Group are just that--doctors. They are not law enforcement, and they don’t care about the fault of the accident. Their sole focus is on helping you get well.
In addition to resolving your injuries, it’s important that you seek medical help right away to document the nature and severity of your injuries. If you fail to take this important action, you could mistakenly waive your right to pursue compensation from a legal or insurance standpoint. This can leave you paying for degenerative spinal diseases out of pocket for life.
Don’t Live With Your Back and Neck Injuries!
Diagnosing neck and back injuries from a car accident sooner rather than later is the key to faster rehabilitation. Your doctor can customize a treatment plan, assist you with pain management, and get you on the path to rehabilitation.
The Sterling Medical Group team is here for one reason—to assist you with physically recovering from your accident.
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