Car accidents happen every day, and unfortunately, millions of people suffer injuries each year as a result. One of the most common complaints after a car accident is back pain, which can have a negative impact on your daily routines and overall quality of life. You may not realize just how much you depend on a healthy back until you start to experience pain. Back pain after a car accident can make everyday movements like sitting, standing, or sleeping uncomfortable and disruptive. A car accident back injury can cause long-term effects, especially without prompt medical care or when left untreated. Here’s what you need to know about the long-term effects of back pain from a car accident and what you can do to help prevent it.
How a Car Accident Can Cause Back Pain
You might be surprised to have back pain or other symptoms after what might have been considered a minor car accident. However, even a minor collision can leave you with pain and discomfort. The force of impact during a car accident can jolt and jostle your body around, putting a lot of pressure and strain, especially on your head, neck, and back. If you were in a rear-end collision, the vehicle colliding with yours from behind can cause your upper body to snap forward violently with the impact. Even if you were stopped when the vehicle happened or driving at a very slow rate of speed, the sudden and surprising jolting can disrupt your body more than you realize it. While you might be tempted to shrug off minor aches and pains after a car accident, these can be signs of a more serious injury that requires medical attention. When back pain is not promptly identified and treated, it can cause pain that can last for months or even years.
Common Back Injuries from a Car Accident
Your spine runs from the base of your neck and through your back, connecting your brain to the nervous system that communicates and controls the rest of your body. Even the slightest tweak to your spine or the muscles and other soft tissues that support it can lead to uncomfortable symptoms. Here are four examples of common back injuries you could experience after a car accident:
Whiplash is the most common car accident injury and can lead to symptoms that affect your head, neck, back, shoulders, and arms. When another vehicle collides with yours, your head may snap forward and backward rapidly. This can cause the muscles in your neck and upper back to stretch and strain out of their typical range of motion. This can also put a lot of pressure on your spine and disrupt the healthy functioning of your nervous system. Back pain is a common symptom of whiplash, and you may find it difficult to turn your head, shoulders, or upper body from side to side without discomfort.
Muscle strains are common in the neck and back after a car accident. A whiplash injury typically includes a type of muscle strain, though you can also strain the muscles in your upper or lower back from a car accident as well. Whether your upper body is strained against the seat belt or you were sitting in a twisted position at the point of impact, the muscles in your back can become overstretched and may even tear. You may be familiar with the phrase “throwing your back out,” which is what it can feel like when you suffer a back muscle strain during a car accident.
Sudden pressure and damage to your spine during a car accident can lead to a herniated disc. A herniated disc may also occur along with a whiplash injury from a car accident. This type of injury occurs when the round, sponge-like discs that support your spine become damaged. With a herniated disc, the soft interior of a spinal disc may bulge out of a crack or tear in the disc and aggravate nearby nerves. A herniated disc in your neck or upper back can cause pain, tingling, and numbness that extends into your shoulder and arm, while this type of injury in your lower back can cause similar symptoms that affect your leg and foot.
An injury to the spinal cord can cause a wide range of symptoms depending on the location and severity of the injury. The spinal cord runs through the spinal column and vertebrae offer a bit of protection for this bundle of nerves. A spinal cord injury refers to an injury that impacts the nerves that make up the spinal cord or the bones and surrounding tissue that support the area. An incomplete spinal cord injury can impact healthy functioning, while a complete spinal cord injury can lead to loss of voluntary movement and feeling below the injured area. Spinal cord injuries should always be taken very seriously and will require immediate medical attention.
5 Long-Term Effects of a Back Injury
So, what happens if you suffer a back injury during a car accident? The best thing you can do for your health and safety is to get checked out by a car accident doctor right away. If you wait to see a doctor or don’t seek help at all, you could end up dealing with uncomfortable symptoms that wreak havoc on your quality of life. Here are five examples of the long-term effects of back pain from a car accident.
Even what seems like a relatively minor injury can still cause a lot of pain. Back pain can also affect people in different ways, ranging from sharp and stabbing to dull and throbbing. You may notice an increase in back pain with certain movements or postures. Back pain may come and go or may be a constant presence in your life. Chronic back pain after a car accident can become constant and debilitating. You may not be able to sit or stand for long periods of time due to pain and discomfort left over from a car accident injury that didn’t heal properly. Even everyday chores and tasks can start to feel impossible. When you can’t maintain a healthy posture due to back pain after an injury, it can lead to additional problems like repetitive headaches or increased fatigue.
When back pain creeps in, you might not be able to get around like you used to or participate in activities and exercises you used to enjoy. Back pain from a car accident can leave you with reduced mobility, meaning you can’t stretch, twist, and flex your back muscles as you could before. You might take for granted just how much your back supports all the activities you usually do until back pain keeps you from participating anymore. Even a simple movement like twisting to reach for something beside you or bending over to pick something up can become difficult.
Anxiety & Depression
The impacts of a car accident injury are not always just physical. You can also experience an increase in anxiety and depression, especially when a back injury and pain keep you from doing the things you love. Living with chronic back pain can become frustrating, and you might start to feel isolated, which can lead to depression. Dealing with chronic pain after a car accident can have a negative impact on your mental health, even if you did not experience any PTSD from the accident. However, if you were in a traumatic accident, PTSD can also make anxiety and depression worse.
Your back pain after a car accident can also have a negative impact on your job. You might have lost income or experienced job insecurity after a car accident. While you recover from your car accident injuries, you may not be able to go to work or perform to the best of your abilities. If you are forced to take time off work to recover, you might be concerned about the risk of losing your job. Chronic back pain can make it difficult to sit at a desk for long hours or make it impossible to perform tasks at a job that requires you to be on your feet or lift heavy objects.
Decreased Quality of Life
As you can see, back pain after a car accident can lead to long-term effects that can impact your overall quality of life. When your quality of life decreases, you might feel frustrated that you can no longer participate like you used to or might lose interest in things you used to enjoy. When simple movements increase your pain and discomfort, you might find yourself opting for fewer activities and end up staying around your house. Your quality of life can be impacted by both the physical and mental effects of a car accident injury.
How Treatment for Back Pain Can Reduce Risk of Long-Term Effects
Getting prompt medical attention is so important to reduce your risk for the long-term effects of back pain from a car accident. Here’s what you should come to expect when you visit the doctor after a car accident.
Car Accident Doctors
First thing first: you want to see a car accident doctor for your injuries. Car accident doctors have the knowledge and expertise to treat a wide range of car accident injuries because they do so every day. From orthopedic doctors to chiropractors and physical therapists, car accident doctors can come from a variety of fields and focus on the goal of helping you recover from a car accident injury.
You will need a thorough diagnosis of your injuries after a car accident both for your own health and for proper documentation of your injuries. A car accident doctor will complete a physical examination, talk to you about your symptoms and medical history, and likely also run diagnostic imaging tests. X-rays and CT scans provide a more detailed look at the affected area and can also be used to measure your progress during treatment and recovery.
Your car accident doctor will provide you with an individualized treatment plan that addresses your specific injuries and symptoms. When it comes to treating a back injury after a car accident, treatment plan goals will include lessening your pain and other symptoms and also improving your quality of life. You should always follow your treatment plan and work with your car accident doctor every step of the way to ensure an optimal recovery. While you might be tempted to get back to your regular routines once the pain starts to subside, you can risk setting back the healing process or even re-injuring yourself.
Recovery & Rehabilitation
Your treatment plan will also involve important steps to help you recover and rehabilitate after your car accident. Physical therapy can help you regain your strength, improve your mobility, and even increase your confidence as you recover. With physical therapy and other approaches like chiropractic care, you can start to reintroduce exercises and activities you enjoy back into your routine. When you work with car accident doctors, they will support you from the initial appointment through your rehabilitation to ensure you have a successful recovery from your car accident injuries.
Visit AICA Orthopedics for quality, comprehensive treatment with car accident doctors near you. With multiple locations across the metro-Atlanta area, AICA Orthopedics offers a car accident clinic near you with orthopedic doctors, neurologists, physical therapists, and chiropractors who can help you. Doctors at AICA Orthopedics have access to state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging tools right on-site, which means you can get the scans you need and get started on your treatment plan all in one convenient location. Our car accident doctors come from a variety of specialties and work together to provide you with a well-rounded approach to your treatment and recovery. Get started with a car accident doctor near you at AICA Orthopedics as soon as possible, and our team of doctors will work with you to avoid the debilitating long-term effects of back pain from a car accident so you can get back to your regular routines and activities.