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Back and Neck Injuries After a Car Accident

Back and neck injuries are associated with car accidents and fender-benders. Whiplash occurs due to unusual force or the impact of an automobile wreck on the neck. However, it can take days for the neck pain and stiffness to appear as the adrenaline wears off. This is when muscle tightness and tension sets in, causing severe immobility. 

Back pain and spinal discomfort stem from injuries to the discs and surrounding structures. These damages, too, can restrict regular movements and require physical therapy. Therefore, you need timely medical care, including deep-tissue massages, adjustments, and rehabilitative sessions to alleviate pain and restore optimal functionality.

There are specialists available to treat neck and back injuries sustained in car accidents. These include:

  • Chiropractors
  • Pain management physicians
  • Orthopedic specialists
  • Neurosurgeons

These experts specialize in strengthening and stabilizing the back and neck after accidents. Treatments are customized to meet your individual needs but may include spinal decompression, massage therapies, and light exercises that gradually rebuild your strength and balance.

Understanding the spinal column

Before discussing treatment options for back and neck injuries, it’s vital to understand the importance of the spinal cord. Along with the brain, the spine makes up the Central Nervous System (CNS) with its intricate pattern of nerves. The CNS oversees the body’s essential functions, including walking, talking, breathing, reflexes, impulses, and movements.

The spine consists of the following:

  • Cervical Spine: The cervical spine is based in the neck. This section of your spine has vertebrae that support the neck and head. It is also the area where most neck pain emanates due to injury or distress.
  • Facet Joints:  These are the joints in the back that enable bending, twisting, and swiveling. This section has cartilage tissue and fluid that cushion the joints to operate smoothly and do not conflict with each other.
  • Lumbar Spine: The lumbar spine is the vertebrae in your lower back.  Lumbar pain is considered lower back pain in the orthopedic industry.
  • Thoracic Spine: The middle section of the spine, just above the lumbar and below the cervical spine. This area constitutes the structure needed for everyday walking or jogging.
  • Vertebrae:  Vertebrae are essentially small bones that house the spinal column. They protect the spinal cord and are structurally needed for posture, walking, and the body’s mobility.

Back and Neck Injury Symptoms

You can feel back and neck injury symptoms days and weeks after the accident. However, if you are experiencing recurring pain or mental confusion, seek immediate help from an appropriate medical professional. Some victims even tend to mistake symptoms for something else. For example, a chronic migraine may be mistaken for stress when it is actually due to a cervical spine injury. This is why it’s essential to seek medical help even if you are not dealing with pain right away.

Failure to see a medical professional may worsen back and neck injuries. The sooner you visit a doctor, the better your chances of making a full, healthy recovery. 

Immediate symptoms of back and neck injuries:

  • Extreme or chronic pain in the neck, back, and head areas.
  • The inability to move your fingers and toes freely.
  • Numbness, stiffness, tingling, and burning sensations in the body.
  • Recurring headaches that may mimic stress migraines.
  • Difficulty walking or maintaining proper balance.
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control.
  • Having problems breathing.

Delayed symptoms of back and neck injuries:

  • Migraines that last for days after the car accident.
  • Stomach pains, swelling, inflammation, and bruising.
  • Loss of strength, weakness, and problems lifting lightweight objects.
  • Tingling and numbness in the back, neck, shoulders, and extremities that do not go away.
  • Pinching sensations in the back, neck, and shoulders.
  • Impaired hearing and vision problems.
  • Stress, anxiety, and feelings of uncontrolled panic.

If you sustained a spinal injury and were treated in the emergency room and hospital, the team took care of immediate life-threatening injuries. However, you will still require pain management therapies with rehabilitation to get you back on your feet.

Types of Back and Neck Injuries After Car Accidents

There are several types of back and neck injuries associated with car accidents. Since each patient is different, the recovery times will vary due to the severity of their injuries. However, most back and neck pain resulting from car wrecks is due to the force of impact. This is known as whiplash – and it can be felt from the neck to the back, requiring timely pain management therapies.

The same also goes for spinal discomfort, which must be evaluated and assessed by the appropriate medical professional. Pain management experts utilize cutting-edge imaging to pinpoint and address the exact areas in distress. They also formulate strategic plans of care, which may include chiropractic care and physical therapy.

Here are some common injuries that can impact the back and neck after an automobile accident.

Herniated Discs

The force of whiplash can compress the nerves and structures in the spinal column. As mentioned earlier, the vertebrae have cushions that protect each other from rubbing. These are known as discs that can easily get knocked out of alignment due to accidents. Herniated or bulging discs require spinal decompression therapies that realign the spine and release the tension in the nerves and surrounding structures.

Physicians will check patients with x-rays, MRIs, and hands-on examinations to determine the severity of the injuries. Bulging discs can be treated with decompression techniques that gently stretch the spinal column back to functional settings. Your pain management specialist will also apply pressure and adjustments to eradicate nerve tension. Patients tend to experience immediate relief, but it can take a few sessions to achieve maximum results. Disc herniation can lead to degenerative spinal disorders if not treated in a timely and professional manner.

Lumbar Injuries

Lumbar sprains are hard to pinpoint after an accident. This is due to radiating pain up and down the back that almost feels like sciatica. Lower back pain can stem from bruised muscles and micro-tears to tissue due to being rear-ended in a car crash. Only a certified pain management specialist can get to the root of the injury with clinical evaluation and diagnosis. 

Lumbar spinal injuries also affect the functionality of the lower back. However, these injuries are more painful than sprains and require expert treatments. Spinal cord injuries may include fractures that require surgery for optimal correction. In addition, sciatica may be present due to pinched nerves and need physical therapy for treating the dull, radiating pain. X-rays and MRIs are taken with clinical assessments to monitor symptoms and produce treatment plans.

Facet Joint Injuries

Facet Joint injuries can cause excruciating pain after car accidents. The symptoms of pain are felt immediately and require extensive evaluations and imaging.  In addition to the injuries to the facet joints, the cartilage can also get damaged and cause fluid that lubricates the joints to leak. If not treated promptly, facet joint injuries may lead to degenerative spinal disorders.

Other spinal injuries include Stenosis, a progressive disease that can worsen if not effectively treated. If you or a loved one have sustained back and neck injuries in a car accident, time is of the essence. It is crucial to visit a pain management specialist and receive customized care to get you on the right path to complete rehabilitation and injury recovery.

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