After an accident, you can often get caught up in the chaos of the situation. Dealing with the police, insurance companies, and car repairs can be draining, and often your body goes into shock mode so that you are able to carry out these tasks. While this allows you to get through the day, this shock may prevent you from noticing back pain after a car accident until days or hours have passed. Once you do notice this pain, it can begin to impact your daily activities like sleep, work, or even the ability to walk and exercise. Just because you do not experience pain immediately following your crash does not mean this pain shouldn’t be taken seriously and seen by a car accident doctor.
Causes of Back Pain After an Accident
Back pain is one of the most common symptoms people experience after being in a car accident, along with neck pain. This is because during an accident, the sudden impact and deceleration can cause the spine to move unnaturally, leading to misalignments and other issues that cause pain and mobility issues going forward.
Some examples of back injuries that often result from accidents include:
- Disc Damage and Herniated Discs
- Soft Tissue Injuries
- Spinal Stenosis
- Lumbar Sprains
- Facet Joint Disease
- Degenerative Disc Disease
Besides generalized pain that results from strains and sprains in the back, the most common forms of injuries are usually a result of nerve damage and pinched or herniated discs.
Numbness and tingling in the back or legs is usually the first sign of a pinched nerve, while lower back pain is usually indicative of disc damage. These issues can cause excruciating pain and challenges with movement and range of motion.
Delayed Back Pain After an Accident
Some injuries will be visible after an accident and therefore obvious enough to receive immediate treatment, like cuts, bruises, and some broken bones. However, many injuries remain hidden for some time. In addition to feeling shocked and preoccupied with logistical arrangements, the body often produces extra adrenaline after a stressful event like a car accident, which can hide pain for hours or days. Once your body and mind feel safe, you may begin to notice pain and other discomfort for the first time.
Symptoms being delayed does not necessarily mean the injury is less serious, however. In some cases, delayed symptoms can cause even more issues than immediate ones. The time between sustaining an injury and identifying it may allow you to go about your normal activities and worsen the condition without knowing it.
It is important to seek medical attention even if you cannot identify any back injuries immediately following an accident so that hidden issues can be identified and treated early on.
How Long Does Back Pain Last?
While this is most people’s first question, there is, unfortunately, no single answer to the question of how long you may suffer back pain after a car accident. Instead, there are a number of factors that heavily influence this answer. Of course, the kind of injury you sustained and its severity will be the biggest factor in this question. Other factors include:
- Age: Younger people tend to have shorter recoveries than older individuals, especially if they do not have existing injuries or prior disc degeneration.
- Health History: Pre-existing injuries can become aggravated or compounded to cause more issues and a longer recovery time.
- Use of Safety Devices: Whether or not you were using a seatbelt is one of the largest determinants of an injury’s severity, and therefore what recovery will look like after the accident. Seatbelts can reduce the risk of severe injury by up to 50% on their own.
- Position in the Vehicle: If you were in the backseat, the front passenger seat, or the driver’s seat can impact the type of pain you experience. Often, drivers will suffer more severe injuries, and those in the back seat may be exempt from airbag injuries.
Even with these factors considered, no two people will experience the same pain and recovery after an accident. However, you can speak with your doctor to determine what recovery time may look like for you.
Treating Your Back Pain
After a car accident, it is important to see a chiropractor or other medical professionals if you are experiencing back pain. At AICA Orthopedics, our team of specialists can evaluate your back before you even notice symptoms and help develop a recovery plan that is personalized to your injuries and needs. Call us today to schedule your consultation.