Car accidents occur every day in the U.S. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), almost three million people sustained injuries in car crashes in 2019. As a densely populated area, many of these accidents occur in New York and New Jersey. Back injuries are among the most common automobile collision injuries. Even low-speed accidents can result in a significant back or neck injury and lasting pain because the body cannot take the impact of a car crash. Thus, a seemingly innocuous back injury can result in chronic pain that impacts the daily lives of car accident victims. Here is everything you need to know about back injuries, including back pain after a car accident, symptoms, treatments, and pain management techniques.
Types of Back Injuries
The majority of back injuries impact the spine. The spine consists of the neck, upper back, and lower back. In medical terminology, these areas are the cervical vertebrae, the thoracic vertebrae, and the lumbar vertebrae. Each spinal cord area has a bevy of connective parts, including muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and discs. These components work together to provide your spine with support and range of motion. Injuries to any of these components can be devastating and cause various degrees of pain. From moderate to debilitating, back pain can have a catastrophic impact on your daily life, making it difficult to work, exercise, and even walk.
Thoracic Spine Injuries
Located in the upper and middle part of the back, the thoracic spine consists of twelve vertebrae. These vertebrae are T-1 to T-12. Thoracic spine injuries are among the most serious car accident back injuries. Back pain after a car accident is often associated with thoracic spine injuries. The thoracic spine connects to the chest and the ribs, and damage can result in broken ribs or bones. High-speed, high-impact crashes cause most thoracic spine injuries. These injuries can lead to permanent nerve damage if not treated properly.
Lumbar Spine Injuries
Lumbar spine injuries impact the lower back and are common back injuries from car accidents. The most common source of lower back pain is muscle sprains and strain. Back pain is common after injury because this part of the body supports your weight and is a critical component in your ability to move and twist. Further, the lumbar spine houses the strongest muscles that provide stability for the spine. Thus, a sprain to this area is painful. If you have a ligament issue, swelling, bruising, and tenderness are common. A limited range of motion often comes with lumbar spine injuries following a car accident.
If you have been involved in a high-impact motor vehicle accident, you may experience herniated discs. Discs are critical because they protect the spine and separate the various areas of the vertebrae. A herniated disc occurs when force dislodges the disc from its natural location. This type of injury typically comes with sharp, burning pain. You may also experience numbness or tingling throughout the body.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Damage to the spinal cord is often considered the most serious car accident injury. These injuries often cause permanent damage to the sensation and body functions below the site of the damage. The most severe injuries cause partial or total paralysis. Rehabilitation and the use of wheelchairs or other types of durable medical equipment can assist you in completing your everyday activities. Further, depending on the extent of the injury, secondary medical issues such as infection, pneumonia, and blood clots sometimes accompany spinal cord injuries.
Symptoms of Back Pain After a Car Accident
If you experience pain after a car accident due to an injury, you may have a wide range of symptoms. Some symptoms appear immediately, while others may take days or even weeks to appear. Common back injuries from car accidents often come with the following symptoms:
- Localized or widespread pain
- Migraine headaches
- Mobility issues
- Loss of normal movement
You may assume your back pain after a car accident will subside within a few days. However, you may need to see a pain management specialist to help diagnose and treat the pain.
Lower Back Pain Symptoms
Lower back pain is commonly associated with car accidents. Lower back pain can be mild, or it can become severe and debilitating. Lower back pain may start immediately after the accident, or it may begin slowly and become more intense over time. Depending on the cause of the pain, you may experience the following lower back pain symptoms:
- Dull pain, centralized in the lower back
- Muscle spasms along the hips, pelvis, and lower back
- Pain associated with prolonged standing or sitting
- Stinging pain along the lower back
Further, lower back pain symptoms are typically divided into three pain categories:
- Acute lower back pain: Acute pain resulting from a car accident is a sudden, sharp pain that does not usually last longer than six months. This type of pain is your body’s warning that something is wrong. Treatment is available for severe pain, but it often subsides naturally.
- Subacute lower back pain: Subacute lower back pain typically lasts between six weeks and three months. It is generally associated with prolonged muscle strain or joint pain. A pain management specialist can help with subacute pain.
- Chronic back pain: Lower back pain is chronic if it lasts longer than three months. Chronic pain does not usually respond to initial treatments and requires a comprehensive plan to diagnose and treat the source of the pain.
Chronic back pain requires the most extensive treatment to alleviate it.
Treatment of Back Injuries
Common back injuries from car accidents come with a multitude of treatment options. Doctors typically diagnose the source and severity of injuries through the use of diagnostic tests such as bone scans, CT scans, x-rays, and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRIs). More than one test is often necessary to identify the extent of the injuries. Once identified, treatment varies depending on the type and severity of the injury. Many treatment plans are only temporary and may include medication, injections, physical therapy, or chiropractic visits.
Severe back injuries may require more extensive treatment options. Surgery may alleviate pressure on the lower back. Surgical procedures can remove ruptured discs or reduce pain in the spinal cord itself.
How To Manage Back Pain After a Car Accident
There are many ways for a car accident victim to manage pain. After your pain management specialist approves your plan, try these tips to help alleviate your back pain after a car crash:
1- Ice and Heat Treatments
Applying ice and heat to your back in a strategic way can help reduce back pain. Since heat and ice work, in the same way, you need to choose the best treatment. If you prefer ice, apply an ice pack to the injured area for 15 minutes a day. However, don’t apply ice immediately after the accident, as bruising and swelling can increase. Heat is the best choice if you have tense muscles that tighten up after your accident. A hot water bottle or compress can improve blood flow to the area, reducing tension and minimizing pain.
Taking an over-the-counter painkiller can help soothe muscles and reduce inflammation. Many pain management specialists recommend taking ibuprofen in the week following a car accident. Once you have a diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe a stronger medication. You should maintain vigilance while taking medicines to ensure you do not become dependent or engage in risky behavior while under the influence.
Movement is essential in the days and weeks following a car accident. Even if you have back pain, gentle exercise can reduce your pain and improve mobility. Walking for 15 minutes a day can help you build up your muscle strength and loosen tense muscles. Taking a gentle yoga or swimming class can also help reduce back pain. Consult with your doctor before partaking in any form of exercise immediately following a car accident.
4- Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is an effective method to reduce pain from common back injuries from car accidents. Booking an appointment with an experienced massage therapist can increase blood circulation and promote healing. Massage also helps to alleviate pain associated with soft tissue injuries. Massages can also help relieve the pain associated with whiplash. A massage therapist can even show you simple exercises you can complete at home daily. If you have a back injury after a car accident, be sure to inform your therapist of your injuries before treatment begins. They can adapt their techniques to help alleviate your pain.
This is not a comprehensive list of pain relief techniques. A qualified doctor can identify the proper pain management techniques for your injury.
Get Treatment With No-Fault Doctors
Are you experiencing back pain after a car accident in New York or New Jersey? Look no further than No-Fault-Doctors.com. We offer a free directory of medical professionals to help with common back injuries from car accidents. Doctors in our directory accept no-fault insurance, PIP (Personal Injury Protection), workers’ compensation, medical liens, and more. Don’t wait any longer to get the help you need. Contact us today to find a doctor in your local area that can help alleviate your back pain after a car accident. Same-day appointments may be available.