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The Main Causes of Neck and Back Pain After an Auto Accident – What You Need to Know

how auto accidents can affect your neck and back

It is nearly impossible to prepare for the unexpected.

Imagine this – you’re driving home from work and before you know it you’re part of a vehicular accident. These events can happen at any time and anyplace.

Some accidents may seem minor, but you’ll find out sooner or later that there’s a lingering pain you might feel in your back and neck.

Car accidents can damage several areas of the body, especially your neck and back.

If one of these areas get damaged, it might hinder you during your day to day life. The back and the neck are sensitive to both force and movement.

If you’re looking for answers about the lingering pain you’ve been feeling because of a recent car accident, then we’re here to help you out.


In What Capacity Are Car Accidents Dangerous?

No matter how insignificant it may seem any form of an accident will carry a certain degree of danger.

Car accidents are on a whole different level as it has the potential to bring long-term damage to several areas of the body and the back and neck are no exception.

Neck and back injuries from car accidents are common, but it doesn’t mean that you should brush off the event as something insignificant. Headaches, nausea, tingling sensations, and slight pains are the least of your problems. Vehicular accidents can even cause compression fracture, disc herniation, and a swift jerking motion to your neck and back areas.


How Do Car Accidents Cause Back and Neck Pain?

Whenever vehicular accidents take place, it will always involve a significant amount of force to the body of the driver and other passengers.

There’s a jerking motion that takes place that can result in back and neck injuries. These pains can occur to either the spinal discs or the facet joints. The speed and impact that takes place aren’t fit for the spinal column.

As a result, aches, pains, ruptures, cracks, fissures, and other ailments can occur.


What’s the Jerking Motion Called?

Most car accidents, regardless of the intensity, will involve a jerking motion.This movement is known as whiplash, and it can cause various different ailments and injuries to the spine.

Effects of whiplash in a car accident

Our backbones connect multiple areas of our bodies, but it’s very fragile. It’s not designed to handle extreme pressures and forces.

Whenever a whiplash occurs, you’ll most likely immediately feel the force of the impact on your back. The pain will then move to the back of the neck.


Long-Term Effects of Whiplash

The general event wherein whiplash starts to take place can happen in an instant, but the effects of whiplash can last for days, weeks, and months. There are even some cases wherein whiplash patients can feel the effects for years.

The severity and longevity of these effects heavily depend on the harshness of the car accident. However, most of the full symptoms will take place about 12-hours after the accident.

There’s also chronic whiplash wherein the effects and symptoms will generally last for 6-months or more. Some of the long-term symptoms include the following: pain in the upper and lower back regions, severe headaches, blurry vision, constant fatigue, jaw pain, irritability, travel anxiety, ringing in the ears, and sometimes sudden numbness in the arms or legs.

If the whiplash is severe, it can even lead to spinal stenosis or osteoarthritis.


General Symptoms of Back and Neck Injuries After a Car Accident

The symptoms of the back and neck injury may vary widely depending on the severity of the accident.

If you feel any discomfort or pain after a vehicular accident, it’s best to seek the help of a medical professional immediately. In doing so, the physician can properly diagnose the problem and prescribe a proper solution.

Some symptoms occur almost immediately after the car accident, while some warning signs that appear days after the incident.

These symptoms include the following:

  • General back, neck, and shoulder pain
  • headaches
  • Migraines
  • Numbness
  • Burning sensations
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Inability to lift otherwise simple objects


The Back Pains Caused by Car Accidents

That discomfort, uneasiness, and pain you feel in your back and neck regions after a car accident is called a discogenic pain.

Discogenic pain is an ache associated with the spinal discs. Our backbones have these round pieces of cartilage that act as a cushioning system. These discs also help our spine move about accordingly when needed while helping us maintain stability.Injury from car accident

When we have discogenic pain, these spinal discs will either gradually deteriorateover time through age, or it’s because of the result of a sudden trauma (e.g., car crash). Majority of individuals experiencing discogenic pain will feel it in their lumbar area (also known as the lower back). The classification of pain depends on a number of factors and incidents.

Let’s take a look at some of them now.


Lumbar Sprains

Sprains found in your lower back tend to result from an excessive amount of force experienced on the back. It’s not just from car crashes that you can experience lumbar sprains. Heavy weightlifters may also experience lumbar sprains.

Some athletes may also experience sprains in their lumbar regions because of improper posture during training or when they made the wrong form. The physical trauma will cause the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the back to stretch to unsafe proportions.

The pain isn’t often diagnosed by imaging technologies. Instead, it requires a direct doctor-patient consultation to properly determine the diagnosis.


Disc Herniation

Disc herniation is a phenomenon wherein there is pain or trauma directed to the cushion-like discs which separate your vertebrae. This upset takes place when the soft inner filling found in the discs will protrude through its outer shell.

The pain coming from the rupture isn’t as painful as what you might initially expect. However, you will experience aches when the protruding material gets near the surrounding nerves.

Other names for herniated discs include pinched nerves and slipped discs. No matter what you may call it, it’s still generally the same or similar injury.


Spinal Stenosis

The term stenosis refers to the abnormal contraction of a channel found in the body.

As such, spinal stenosis means that there’s a narrowing found in the bone channel where the spinal cord and spinal nerves are located. Most patients who suffer from spinal stenosis do acquire the condition from natural aging.

However, it can suddenly appear because of a physical trauma like a car accident. Pain coming from a spinal stenosis often comes from a ruptured bone fragment or disc that’s trying to or is currently invading the space of the spinal canal. It’s because there’s unwanted pressure generated by the cord or nerves.


How to Diagnose the Pain in the Lower Back After a Car Accident

The human lumbar spine has 5 vertebrae.

The human spine

Furthermore, there are soft discs that separate each vertebra. Each of these discs has a tough outer casing or ring that surrounds a soft center or nucleus. When we’re still young, these discs will mostly contain water. As we continue to age, these elements will continue to lose hydration. As a result, they become more susceptible to cracking, fissures, and sometimes even ruptures.

The effect is often called annular tears, and this can lead to both inflammation and pain. To properly diagnose the pain felt in the lower back after a vehicular accident, it’s essential to seek the aid of a skilled medical practitioner. You can also go for an MRI or tomography to help identify the exact location of the ache and damage.

However, bear in mind that there are some instances wherein car accidents doesn’t cause pain in the lumbar region. Doctors can help you see if there’s a fracture, tear, or crack with the use of other tests like discography.


How to Treat Discogenic Pain

If you feel any discomfort or pain in your spinal region, then the first thing to do is to seek the assistance of a doctor.

The medical professional can then lead you to certain practices and medications to help treat the pain. There are also physical therapies and anti-inflammatory medicines that can also aid in lessening the pain felt from the injury.

If these primary methods don’t bring any major relief, then there are also non-surgical solutions that may aid in providing you with a long-lasting reprieve.

However, if the medications, physical therapies, and non-surgical options still don’t bring you significant relief from the pain, then surgery might be the only solution left for your predicament.


The Facet Joints in the Spine

What are facet or facet joints? These elements are a relatively unpopular part of the spine.

However, they still play a vital role in their function despite the lack of popularity. Facet joints have a thick yet flexible membrane that surrounds it. This covering secretes a fluid that helps in lubricating the joints for easy movement.

The facets aid in supporting the overall weight of the body while assisting the movement between each vertebra. These joints closely work with the spinal discs.

As a result, it allows for a controlled and strong movement throughout the spine. This movement will then emanate throughout the entire body.

Weak facet joints can also mean the appearance of improper posture. Ultimately, the main role of the facet joint is to prevent the backbone from moving too much in a single direction. These joints are also the reason why we can’t completely bend sideways, backward, or forwards.


Symptoms Felt From Damaged Facet Joints

The most common symptom relating to pain or damage found in the facet joints consist of unwanted muscle spasms. These “twinges” may forcibly cause the spine out of alignment, which can then cause the back or neck to receive additional pain.

For instance, if a patient is trying to pick up something from the floor, a muscle spasm may suddenly occur without notice. The event can cause the person to technically freeze in place because of the pain.

Don’t confuse the symptoms of facet joint injuries with issues to the spinal discs. Facet joints that lock in place are sudden and very painful. However, one of the best ways to remedy locked facets is to release the frozen joint or joints.


How to Diagnose Facet Joint Injuries From Car Accidents

Unlike some cracks or fissures found in the lumbar region, facet joint injuries are easily seen on most standard X-rays. You can also undergo a CT scan to get more details out of the damaged spinal structure.

Chiropractor examines X-rayA CT scan is better than a standard X-ray examination because it can also help diagnose other possible issues and threats regarding your facets. Your physician might even suggest using an injection dye while you’re undergoing an X-ray. This solution helps them see the problem areas more clearly as opposed to just relying on what the X-ray tells you right off the bat.

Using an injection dye on facet joints is known as a facet joint block. Aside from a CT scan or a traditional X-ray examination, you can also opt for an MRI scan to help diagnose issues and concerns in the facet joints. Some physicians might rule to require you to have an MRI scan if the two prior methods don’t suffice because of some reasons.


How to Treat Facet Joint Pain From Car Accidents

One common way to treat pain from the facet joint is to apply a hot or cold pack over the affected area. Start by using either hot or cold therapy for 15-minutes every 2 to 3-hours.

The duration of the procedure depends on the recommendations of your physician. Aside from using a hot or cold compress, you can also seek the aid of anti-inflammatory medications like NSAID’s.

Medicines like Ibuprofen can also aid in reducing the swelling in the affected area. Once again, always check with your doctor before attempting to use any medicine.


Other Methods to Help Treat Facet Joint Pains

Aside from using NSAID’s and a hot/cold compress, you should remember to neverpush yourself too hard if you feel any discomfort or pain in your facet joints. Move slowly, and if you feel any significant pain, you should immediately stop what you’re trying to do.

If the pain persists even if you stop moving, then you can apply some therapeutic massage over the area to help relieve any muscle spasms that might be occurring.

Another solution to help treat facet joint pains is to seek the aid of a licensed and qualified chiropractor. The seasoned professional will give you detailed information on what happened to your facet joints, the exact location of the pain, and what needs to be done to alleviate said ache. Last but not least, you should exercise to help improve the stiffness and spasms.

You can start by doing low impact exercises and yoga. Also, you should work out while knowing the extent of your injury so as not to worsen the pain.


Car Accidents Affect the Muscles As Well

Car accidents won’t just affect your spinal column and the surrounding skeletal structures because it can also negatively affect the muscles as well.

Even if you don’t feel any immediate pain or if the ache doesn’t seem to lie on your muscles, you should always seek the help of a medical professional the soonest that you can.

There are different ways car accidents can affect the muscles. Let’s take a look at some of them now.


Injuries to Soft Muscle Tissue

Perhaps the most common injury that can take place to your muscles after a car accident is known as a soft tissue injury.

Whiplash is a common injury that involves the muscles found in your neck, and it’s particularly commonplace when experiencing rear-end collisions. Albeit commonly known as single-point injury, whiplash is a series of soft tissue strains in the neck.

Muscle Weakness

If you suffered a herniated disc after a car accident, then it can then lead to muscle weakness.

You’ll find that it’s difficult to lift even relatively lightweight objects, and you might also experience sudden numbness or tingling sensations. These symptoms will often take place in the arms and legs.

The symptoms may or may not take effect immediately after the car accident. There are even some cases wherein the symptoms will take place weeks or even months after the incident.

If you feel any muscle weakness, sudden pains, or any discomfort after a car accident, always seek immediate medical attention. Even if you think that the pain or uneasiness is seemingly insignificant, contact a licensed physician immediately so as not to let the uncomfortable feeling get any worse.


Potential Delayed Symptoms After a Car Accident

There are symptoms that take a few hours, days, weeks, or even months after a car accident before they start appearing. Some potential delayed symptoms include the following:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Stiffness in the neck or shoulders
  • Sudden back pains
  • Swelling/pain in the abdomen
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

In the case of PTSD, some patients will experience vivid, disturbing, and sometimes haunting memories of the incident with or without triggers. For example, even if the person is just sitting down on their couch, the image of the car accident may suddenly enter their minds, and this event can cause panic and anxiety attacks.


Is It Possible to Get Compensation for Back and Neck Pains Caused by Car Accidents?

Yes, you can file for assistance if you experience any back or neck injury if you’re involved in a vehicular accident.

Perhaps the most money that can be awarded to you is if the accident caused paralysis. However, victims of car accidents rarely get paralyzed as many physical health concerns from such incidents are treatable with modern medical technologies.

Aside from paralysis, there are also some individuals that may require having their vertebrae fused. This procedure may require a hefty sum of cash, but you can file a claim for the operation.

Also, bear in mind that the overall length of the treatment can also affect the amount of cash you can receive from the settlement. For example, someone who requires 5-months of treatment will get more money from the assistance as compared to an individual who only needs 2-weeks of treatment.

There are also other events that can help you acquire more money as compensation like a herniated disc or the requirement to take steroids because of the incident.

Just remember that you still need to prove that you acquired these injuries from the car accident first before you can properly file a claim. For more information regarding how much money you can get to compensate for the treatment of your back and neck-related injuries after a car accident, you should ask your insurance company or agent.


Take Action Now That You’re Aware

Knowing the cause of neck and back pains after car accidents is half the battle, but you shouldn’t stop there.

Always seek the help of a doctor at the first sign of pain to properly diagnose the root and location of the issue.

Chiropractor using mobilization treatment method

Chiropractic care is significantly effective in treating the spinal and soft tissue injuries commonly associated with car accidents.

If you live in the Framingham or Metrowest area and would like a free consultation from an experienced and professional chiropractor near you, don’t hesitate to click the link to schedule.