The 6 Common Types of Spine Injury From a Car Accident
The human spine is a complex system of bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and vital nerves that control the way you move and sense everything. An injury to any part of your spine from a car accident can cause severe pain and even lead to permanent disability.
If you’ve been in a car accident and sustained a spine injury, you need to make sure you get the medical treatment you need so you don’t experience complications later on.
Keep reading to learn about six common car accident-related spine injuries and the symptoms to watch out for.
Whiplash is an injury that results from a forceful back and forth movement of the neck, and it’s one of the most common auto accident injuries.
It’s often considered to be an injury to the neck, but it usually affects the cervical spine in your neck. It also affects the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the neck region.
Usually, symptoms of whiplash develop a few days after the initial injury and include:
- Neck stiffness and pain
- Pain that becomes worse with movement
- Headaches that start at the base of the skull
- Difficulty with a range of motion in the neck
- Numbness and tingling in the arms
- Pain and tenderness in the upper back and shoulder
If you have neck pain after a car accident, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible. You’ll need an evaluation to determine if any other injuries have occurred, and your doctor will often order imaging tests like an x-ray or CT scan.
Some people can have long-term complications from whiplash, such as chronic whiplash syndrome. Chronic whiplash symptoms include ongoing headaches, neck pain, and neck spasms.
You’ll need a combination of over-the-counter pain medication, rest, hot and cold therapy, and physical therapy treatments.
2. Herniated Disc
When you’re in a car accident, your body absorbs a large amount of force from the impact. If you’re in a severe collision, the extreme force can cause the vertebrae (bones in the spinal column) to slip out of place and rupture or herniate a disc.
A herniated disc occurs when the inner part of the spinal disc pushes through the outer ring of the disc. A herniated disc most often occurs in the lower back, but it can happen in any part of the spine, including the neck.
Symptoms depend on the location of the herniated disc and whether it’s pressing on a nerve. Common symptoms include:
- Pain in the arms and legs
- Numbness and tingling in your arms or legs
- Muscle weakness that affects your ability to walk or use your arms normally
If you’ve been in a car accident and have herniated disc symptoms, you’ll need to see an auto accident doctor immediately. Most people need a combination of physical therapy, chiropractic care, and steroid injections to reduce the pain and heal properly.
3. Spinal Fracture
During a car accident, your body is jerked abruptly in multiple directions. This type of motion can cause a lot of pressure on your spine, resulting in a spinal fracture.
Common spinal fractures that result from a car accident are spinal compression fractures and burst fractures. A spinal compression fracture happens when the front part of a vertebra is crushed, and a burst fracture occurs when the entire vertebra collapses.
Symptoms of a spinal fracture include pain that gets worse when you walk around, pain with bending or twisting your body, and loss of height. Severe spinal fractures can cause spine injury symptoms like paralysis, bowel or bladder changes, and weakness in your legs.
Spinal fractures can be severe, so you’ll likely need personal injury management services that will refer you to various specialists like an orthopedic surgeon, a pain management doctor, and physical therapy.
4. Back Strains and Sprains
A back strain occurs when the muscles or tendons that support your spine are pulled, twisted, or torn. A sprain occurs when the ligaments in your back are stretched, and a severe sprain can cause ligaments to tear.
Symptoms you’ll experience with strains and sprains include muscle cramping, muscle spasms, and difficulty standing straight or bending forward.
Medical imaging doesn’t always pick up this type of car accident injury, so you’ll need to talk to a doctor about the symptoms you’re experiencing.
A common complication of back strains and sprains is chronic loss of muscle strength and flexibility, so it’s important not to ignore these symptoms or delay treatment.
Spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition that results when one of your vertebrae moves out of place and rests on the vertebra below. It can result from an abnormal movement of your back due to a high-energy car crash.
As the vertebra moves, it can compress the spinal canal or the nerves around it. Symptoms depend on how much the vertebra shifts, but usually, you’ll experience weakness, pain, and difficulty walking.
Spondylolisthesis injuries can range from low to high grade. Low-grade injuries usually respond to nonsurgical treatments, but a high-grade injury often requires surgery.
6. Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are one of the most dangerous and devastating types of injuries that can occur during a car accident. In a spinal cord injury, there is damage to the nerves in a part of the spinal cord or to the nerves at the end of the spinal canal.
With a spinal cord injury, you’ll typically lose either complete or partial feeling and the ability to control movement below the area of the injury. Other symptoms include loss of bladder control and difficulty breathing.
You’ll need immediate immobilization, treatment to reduce inflammation, and possible surgery. Rehabilitation can take months to a year, so you’ll need to be under the care of many specialists.
Find the Right Treatment for Your Spine Injury Today
When you have a spine injury, it’s essential to get access to the right supportive services so that you can recover as soon as possible.
If you’re suffering from a spine injury due to a car accident, it’s time to reach out to Complete Injury Management for help. We have experience in auto accident injuries, work-related injuries, and sports injuries.
We can help find you the care specialists you need, from physical therapy and orthopedic surgery to chiropractic care.
Make sure you contact us today to schedule an appointment!