Being involved in a minor fender bender may seem harmless at the time. If your injuries are not severe, you might not even think about going to the doctor. However, note that the neck and back are particularly susceptible to injury, and trauma to these regions may not show up immediately following an accident.
For that reason, it is important to seek medical care right away after a collision. In addition, if you do develop any kind of neck or back pain and someone else is to blame, you may be entitled to financial compensation.
Whiplash Following Car Accident
Now, the most common cause of neck and back pain after a car accident is whiplash. This is an injury that is the result of the neck bending forcibly forward and then backward. The rapid movement causes trauma to the underlying muscles, discs, nerves and/or tendons around the neck area.
- Pain in the neck, back, or shoulders
- Neck stiffness
- Numbness in limbs, and
As mentioned above, symptoms for these injuries may not show up immediately after a collision. However, a medical professional can diagnose your condition with the use of an X-Ray, MRI, and/or CT Scan.
Keep in mind that the recovery time for whiplash varies depending on the individual and severity of the injury. Some feel back to normal in only a few months, while others have persistent pain that lasts for several months or longer.
While you are healing, there are treatment options that have been shown to be helpful in reducing symptoms associated with whiplash, including:
- Applying ice to the area right after the accident
- Physical therapy, and
- Osteopathic manipulation.
Pain management is also key, and typically includes medication such as muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory medicine, and topical gels or shots. However, if your symptoms do not respond to these treatments, it is important to seek help from a health care provider.
Lower Back Pain Caused by Herniated Disc
Note that there are 26 vertebrae in the spine, with discs between each one. The discs have a soft center (nucleus) and a tough outer shell (capsule). A herniated disc occurs when the capsule breaks and the nucleus squeezes out. This irritates the spinal cord and surrounding nerves.
Herniated discs are caused by sudden and immense pressure on the spine, and can be the result of the force of a seatbelt. Symptoms of herniation include weakness or numbness in arms and legs and, in serious cases, paralysis. Other symptoms to be aware of include sharp shooting pain in the neck or back (or down the arms and legs), and loss of bladder or bowel control.
Diagnosing a herniated disc requires the use of a discography. This involves inserting a small needle into the spinal disc and injecting a liquid to make the area visible on an x-ray.
Treatment for this condition largely involves medication to manage pain and physical therapy to increase core strength and balance. In serious cases, surgery to remove disc tissue may be required.
Lumbar Spine Injuries
Now, lumbar injuries are the most common cause of lower back pain. The lumbar spine is the area of the lower back where the spine curves inward towards the abdomen. It consists of five large vertebrae and stabilizes the spine. The lumbar spine is involved in any moving, twisting, and bending motions.
Any excessive force to this area as a result of a car accident may lead to strain or sprain, which can be particularly painful. The symptoms of lumbar spine injuries include lower back pain and stiffness, muscle spasms, and an inability to maintain posture. In serious cases, a person may have severe abdominal pain, fever, and loss of bladder or bowel control.
In most cases, a lumbar spine injury is diagnosed with an X-Ray and MRI. Treatment includes:
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Muscle relaxants, and
- Physical therapy – including pelvic rotation, gentle massage, electrical muscle stimulation, and/or stretching exercises.
Note that it is also important for a person to stay active. This helps maintain muscle strength and flexibility. In addition, regular massages, acupuncture, and chiropractic care may also be helpful. Keep in mind that while a lumbar injury can make daily activities difficult, 90% of individuals that follow a prescribed treatment plan fully recover.