Car accidents can be a traumatic experience, both physically and emotionally. The physical injuries sustained in a car accident can range from minor to severe, with back injuries being one of the most common types of injuries. In this blog, we'll explore the different types of back injuries that can occur in a car accident and how to manage them.
Types of Back Injuries from Car Accidents
Back pain after a car accident can include strains and sprains to the muscles of the lumbar spine, spinal cord damage, herniated discs, thoracic spine injuries, fractures, and more. Here are some of the most common types of back injuries sustained in car accidents:
Lumbar or Thoracic Vertebrae Fractures
Spinal fractures occur when the backbone is compromised, resulting in one or more vertebrae cracking under pressure. These types of injuries are often referred to as “broken back injuries;” however, these injuries can involve any of the 33 bones protecting your spinal cord becoming damaged. Doctors also refer to these injuries as flexion fractures, compression fractures, burst fractures, fracture-dislocation.
Back Strains & Sprains
When vehicles collide, the resulting impact can cause sore muscles and damaged ligaments in your back. These injuries are considered soft-tissue injuries and can frequently bring about painful sensations, tightness of movement or agonizing spasms that may take time to heal depending on their severity. To alleviate discomfort from mild ailments anti-inflammatory drugs and heat/cold treatments are recommended; more serious damage might require physical therapy for full recovery.
A herniated disc is a condition that occurs when one of the rubbery cushions between the vertebrae in the spine becomes displaced. This can cause pressure on nearby nerves, leading to pain and other symptoms such as numbness and tingling. In some cases, it can even lead to paralysis.
A herniated disc can be a disabling condition, with physicians using terms such as 'slipped', or 'ruptured' to describe it. When the protruding portion rubs against nerves in your body, you may experience numbness and an intense burning sensation that could extend far past the affected area. Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the herniation, but may include physical therapy, medications, or surgery.
When a person is in a car accident, it can cause their vertebrae to move out of alignment and put pressure on the surrounding nerves. This can result in spondylolisthesis.
Spondylolisthesis is a condition that occurs when one of the vertebrae in the spine slips out of its normal position. This can cause pain and discomfort in the lower back, as well as other symptoms such as numbness or tingling in the legs. It is most commonly caused by degenerative conditions such as arthritis, but can also be caused by trauma, such as a car accident.
Spinal Cord Damage
An unexpected blow to the spine can leave a person dealing with devastating, lifelong consequences. Car crashes are one of the main contributors of spinal cord injuries in young people which often result in sensitivity and motor-function loss below the point where it was damaged. Furthermore, sufferers may also suffer from excruciating pain, blood clots and potential infections that could further complicate their life situation.
Discogenic pain is a type of back pain that originates from a damaged vertebral disc. It is mainly composed of nociceptive and neuropathic pain, and can be caused by both traumatic and degenerative disc disease. Discogenic pain can be difficult to diagnose as it shares many symptoms with other conditions such as sciatica or spinal stenosis.
Discogenic pain can cause severe, intense sensations such as sharp pains or shooting nerves. It often radiates to your lower body (i.e. buttocks, feet, groin and/or legs), causing immense discomfort known as sciatica. Other symptoms include localized lower back pain, numbness in the legs, difficulty standing or walking for extended periods of time, and difficulty bending or lifting heavy objects.
Pain levels may vary depending on the activity with some feeling relief while lying down but more distress when standing for long periods of time. Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the condition but may include physical therapy, medications, injections, or surgery.
Facet Joint Injuries
Your facet joints help you move through life with ease, allowing your spine to bend and twist without pain. Unfortunately, when the cartilage between these bones weakens or is damaged by untreated trauma, it can put a damper on even daily activities due to uncomfortable nerve irritation that results in stiffness and radiating pain.
Facet joint injuries are a common result of car accidents. When the body is subjected to sudden and forceful movements, such as those experienced during a crash, the facet joints can be damaged. This damage can range from mild to severe, depending on the severity of the accident.
Facet joint injuries can cause pain and discomfort in the neck and back that may last for months or even years after the accident. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair any damage done to the facet joints.
Degenerative Spinal Disorder & Complications
As we age, the discs between our vertebrae can wear down and cause severe lower back pain due to degenerative disc disease. But an unexpected car crash or sudden movement could entirely disrupt these delicate structures as well, leading to potentially debilitating effects. Thankfully treatments are available depending on each individual's situation: ranging from oral medications through surgery in extreme cases.
In some cases, a car accident may even aggravate pre-existing degenerative disc disease. Car accidents can cause trauma to the back that, when combined with existing degenerative disc disease, can worsen the condition and lead to severe pain and discomfort. This is because car accidents often involve intense force that can result in serious injuries to the head, neck, and back.
If you have previous back injuries or damage, that injury combined with degeneration can lead to the development of other back conditions, such as:
- Bone spurs
- Bulging discs
- Foraminal stenosis
- Pinched nerves
- Spinal osteoarthritis
- Spinal stenosis
How to Know If You Sustained a Back Injury
After a car accident, you may experience a variety of symptoms. Muscle spasms can range from mildly uncomfortable twitches and hard knots to agonizingly painful sensations that persist for days. You may also feel burning pain down your back or buttocks along with general stiffness as your body protects itself by tensing up muscles throughout its entirety.
Other symptoms of back injuries can include:
- Sharp pains. Be mindful of acute pains in your back when you change positions, sit up, stand up, walk, etc.
- Discomfort while standing or walking. If you notice any discomfort (i.e. throbbing) while doing a physical activity, such as walking or doing normal daily tasks, you may have a back injury.
- Numbness or tingling. If you are experiencing numbness or tingling in your legs, feet, hands, or arms, you may have a punched nerve or another type of spinal cord/back injury.
- Headaches or dizziness. If you have whiplash or other cervical vertebrae injuries, you may experience headaches, disorientation, and/or dizziness.
Immediately following your auto accident, you should see a medical professional. They can examine you for injuries and advise you of what symptoms or issues you should look out for. A doctor can also more easily recognize and diagnose whether you have a back injury.
Injured in a Car Accident? We Are Here to Help!
Being injured in a car accident can be life-changing and overwhelming, especially if another party is liable for your injuries. The Law Offices of Charles R. Gueli is here to help you understand your legal rights and options. As we know no case is alike, we are prepared every step of the way – be it presenting claims or taking them to trial if need arises.
At the Law Offices of Charles R. Gueli, our experienced legal team dives deep into the causes of your car accident and uses all available resources to determine who is at fault. When you retain our services, we can:
- conduct thorough studies of physical evidence as well as on-site investigations for a more detailed understanding,
- review witness statements with scrutiny,
- analyze police reports closely, and
- utilize any other pertinent information that can help win you maximum compensation from insurers.
Contact our Nassau County attorney today by calling (516) 628-6402 or reaching out online.