The forces involved in a car accident are tremendous. However, when someone is involved in a car accident, they do not always immediately realize the full extent of their injuries. Often, an accident victim will see blood or broken skin, and their brain will tell them that is the source of their pain. However, most car accident injuries do not appear right after the accident, especially those involving the lower back and neck. Injuries to the neck and lower back are extremely common and will often carry lifelong consequences. Limited movement, lingering pain, jarring headaches: these are all caused by damage to the neck and back. However, these are also some of the most overlooked injuries.
After an accident, you may be wondering where to get the proper medical treatment, or what you need to do to pursue a claim for compensation against the other drivers involved. This is especially the case if you have not been through the process before. Obtaining proper treatment after an accident is a critical step in the recovery process.
Common Types of Accident-Related Neck Injuries
When someone is involved in a car accident, there is a sudden and intense change in the speed and direction that they were traveling. These abrupt changes in momentum put incredible force on the neck and can cause severe damage.
The most common neck injury after a car accident is whiplash. The term whiplash describes damage to the neck caused by the rapid back-and-forth or side-to-side motion of the neck, similar to the cracking of a whip. This sudden movement can severely damage the discs, nerves, and ligaments in the neck and back.
Most often, whiplash symptoms do not immediately show up after an accident. Typically, it takes a few days for whiplash to set in. When it does, accident victims may experience the following:
- Pain and stiffness in the neck
- Frequent headaches
- A significantly reduced range of motion
- Numbness in the arms
- Tenderness in the shoulders, upper back, and arms
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Trouble sleeping
- Memory loss
While whiplash will sometimes go away on its own, that is not always the case. Those who have suffered from whiplash in the past and have pre-existing back or neck injuries are at a greater risk of developing more serious complications.
In some cases, whiplash will heal on its own. However, in more severe cases, a doctor may need to stabilize the neck by having the accident victim wear a foam collar. Physical therapy is also frequently needed to reach maximum post-accident recovery potential.
While whiplash is one of the most common types of car accident injuries, it is not necessarily the most serious. However, whiplash can be a sign of other damage to the brain or back.
Common Types of Accident-Related Back Injuries
Back pain can be excruciating, especially in the days and weeks after a car accident. Once back pain sets in, it is often long-lasting. Thus, anyone who was involved in a car accident and later realizes they are suffering back pain should immediately see a doctor to ensure the injury does not worsen.
Often, the back takes the brunt of the force in a car accident. And while the spine is very strong, it can be – and often is – damaged due to the tremendous forces involved in an accident. Not only is the spine strong, but it also serves a crucial purpose by protecting the soft, gel-like spinal cord, which is responsible for transmitting nerve signals throughout the body. If the spinal cord is damaged, an accident victim may sustain irreversible damage, potentially resulting in paralysis.
The most common causes of back pain following a car accident are:
Sprains and strains
While the terms sprain and strain are often confused or used interchangeably, they actually refer to different types of injuries. A strain is the result of trauma to the muscles or tendons in the back. A sprain refers to the stretching or tearing of a ligament, which is a fibrous band that prevents joints from overextending. The symptoms of both sprains and strains include a reduced range of motion and excruciating pain.
The spine is made up of small bones called vertebrae. Each vertebra has a hole in the center, through which the spinal cord travels. The forces involved in an accident can cause the vertebrae to crack or even break. Depending on the extent of the damage, a broken vertebra can press up against the spinal cord, causing additional damage.
A vertebral disc is a soft, cushion-like structure that rests between each vertebra. When the back is exposed to excessive force, these discs can rupture, break, or bulge. Vertebral disc injuries are often extremely painful and may require surgery or long-term courses of physical therapy.
After an accident, the symptoms of a neck or back injury may not be immediately apparent. However, that does not mean that no damage was done. Accident victims should always consult with a doctor after an accident to ensure they receive the medical care they need.
If Pain Lingers Contact a Car Accident Attorney
If you have been injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Of course, a crucial step in the recovery process is obtaining the proper medical care. A skilled attorney should help get you the medical care you need and work with medical experts who can help the judge or jury understand the extent of your injuries.