During a car accident, your whole body is left vulnerable to injury as a result of the unnatural force of impact and the proximity to hard surfaces. The spine is particularly susceptible to injury because it is complex and spans a large portion of the body- this is why back injury from a car accident is one of the most common reasons to visit a car accident clinic.
However, this category is broad, as the back can be injured in a wide variety of ways. Below are some of the most common injuries caused by car accidents where the spine and back are concerned.
As the most common injury in general after a car accident, whiplash is often associated with the neck. However, it impacts the cervical spine which can also impact the back as a whole. The motion that causes whiplash, the head moving back and forth at an unnatural speed, causes tears and sprains to the tissues in the neck. Depending on the severity of this damage, it can manifest in back pain or have an impact on the lower areas of the spine.
Soft Tissue Damage
In addition to whiplash, soft tissue damage is another broad type of back injury from car accidents. If the arms or shoulders are jerked during a car crash, it can cause hyperextension that tears ligaments or muscles. This can cause pain in the area of injury or referred pain in other areas of the back and spine.
Typically, when damage occurs in the discs that separate your vertebrae, it is due to degeneration over time or a chronic condition. However, the force of a car accident can cause these discs to be knocked out of place or even rupture. This unnatural positioning then compresses the nerves surrounding the spine, leading to severe pain or numbness.
Various parts of the spine can fracture during the force of an accident. In a spinal compression fracture, the bone along the spine collapses in response to an extreme blow of force to the back or head. This usually is shown as a small crack along the vertebrae. These fractures can range from painless to excruciating depending on the location and severity. Untreated, these issues can lead to numbness, muscle weakness, or problems with bladder control.
When stress fractures occur, they can force vertebrae to move out of place, compressing nerves or the spinal canal and causing pain, along with numbness or weakness. Many people even struggle to walk with this condition, known as spondylolisthesis. Depending on the location of the impacted vertebrae, this can require surgery to repair.
Spinal stenosis is a degenerative condition that typically occurs over time, rather than as a back injury from a car accident. However, many people have asymptomatic spinal stenosis or a very early version of this narrowing of the spinal canal. In these cases, the force of the car accident can cause symptoms to appear or suddenly worsen a mild case.
Spinal Cord Injuries
The most dangerous back injury from a car accident is damage to the spinal cord. Even a minor laceration or bruise can lead to serious issues, and a severed spinal cord injury can cause a victim to be permanently paralyzed. These injuries usually have a long recovery period, though minor injuries can be treated over time.
Treating Back Injuries After a Car Accident
After any car accident, it is important to visit a car accident clinic in order to diagnose any hidden injuries and begin treatment quickly. Most injuries will be diagnosed through the use of diagnostic imaging, a physical examination, and discussion of any symptoms with your provider. Often, back injuries occur in conjunction with other injuries that need to be treated holistically.
At AICA Orthopedics, we have a multidisciplinary team of specialists that are trained to look for injuries specific to car accident victims. The chiropractors, physical therapists, neurologists, orthopedists, and others on our team will assess you fully for any symptoms or signs of injury right away so that treatment can begin quickly. Your treatment plan is developed specifically for you by these experts, along with others like radiologists and pain management specialists, in order to help you reach a full recovery.
If you have recently suffered a back injury from a car accident, contact AICA Orthopedics today to schedule your first consultation and begin treatment.