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Common Back Injuries and Causes of Back Pain from Car Accidents

Sep 16, 2022 - Car Accidents, Personal Injury

Serious car accidents often leave drivers and passengers suffering from back injuries. Back injuries can involve bone fractures, disc injuries, soft tissue damage and/or nerve damage; and while some car accident victims will experience effects immediately, others will gradually begin to develop back pain over time.

All back injuries have the potential to be serious. As a result, individuals who are experiencing back pain or other symptoms following a car accident should seek medical attention immediately. While it is possible to recover from many types of back injuries, seeing a doctor promptly can be essential for mitigating the risk of long-term consequences. Likewise, when recovery is not possible, prompt diagnosis and treatment are critical for ensuring that car accident victims are not forced to live with unnecessary limitations.

What Are Some Common Back Injuries from Car Accidents?

The back is made up of the spinal cord, spine, and surrounding muscles and soft tissue. All of these are prone to being damaged in the event of a car accident. As a result, back injuries from car accidents can vary widely in terms of their nature and severity, and a prompt and accurate diagnosis is critical for making informed treatment decisions. Some of the most common back injuries drivers and passengers sustain in car accidents include:

1. Back Sprains and Strains

Back sprains and strains are extremely common injuries in car accidents. Sprains are injuries to the ligaments in the back, while strains are injuries to the muscles and tendons. The impact and torsional forces involved in a collision can easily cause damage to muscles, ligaments and tendons, and this can cause pain, limited mobility and other effects that require long-term rest and recovery.

2. Vertebrae Fractures (Spinal Fractures)

The bones in the spine are called vertebrae, and, like all bones in the body, the vertebrae are susceptible to being damaged in the event of a collision. Vertebrae fractures are classified based on the location where the fracture occurs:

  • Cervical vertebrae fractures occur in the upper back and neck
  • Thoracic vertebrae fractures occur in the middle of the back
  • Lumbar vertebrae fractures occur in the lower back
  • Sacral vertebrae fractures occur in the tailbone region

In many cases, drivers and passengers who suffer spinal fractures will suffer other back injuries as well. This can include injuries to the spinal cord, which have the potential to result in full or partial paralysis depending on where in the spine they occur.

3. Herniated Discs (Slipped, Bulging and Ruptured Discs)

The vertebrae in the spine are separated and protected by discs. These discs are rubbery and filled with a jelly-like texture, and they are commonly referred to as the “shock absorbers” of the spine.

But, in the event of a serious car accident, their shock-absorbing capabilities won’t always be enough. When overstressed, the discs in the spine can rupture, causing their jelly-like center to spill out. This is known as a herniated disc. Herniated discs can cause severe pain and other symptoms, and, in some cases, surgery will be necessary.

4. Facet Joint Injuries

Facet joints allow the spine to move, and they allow the nerves in the spinal cord to travel to other areas of the body. When a driver or passenger suffers a facet joint injury in a car accident, this can cause pain, tenderness, muscle tightness and muscle spasms (among other symptoms).

5. Nerve Damage

Vertebrae fractures, herniated discs and facet joint injuries are all frequently accompanied by nerve damage. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that runs vertically through the length of the spine. Spinal cord injuries involving nerve damage can have a variety of effects, from chronic pain, numbness and tingling sensations to paralysis.

6. Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is a condition that occurs when one of the vertebrae in the spine is displaced due to a stress fracture. This displacement compresses the nerves in the spinal cord and can cause any or all of the symptoms associated with other nerve-related spinal cord injuries. As with other types of spine injuries, the risks associated with spondylolisthesis vary depending on the level at which the injury occurs.

7. Paralysis

Severe nerve damage from a car accident can result in full or partial paralysis. The extent of a car accident victim’s paralysis is determined by the location of the injury. The higher an injury occurs in the spine, the greater its effects, with quadriplegia (paralysis affecting all four limbs) generally caused by injuries in the cervical region.

What Kind of Back Pain Is Caused By a Car Accident?

Car accident victims can experience various kinds of back pain as a result of their injuries. The severity and duration of back pain caused by a car accident depends on several factors. While some car accident victims will fully recover, chronic back pain is a possibility in many cases. Some of the most common kinds of back pain caused by car accidents include:

  • Degenerative Spine Disorders – Trauma from a car accident can cause (or exacerbate) various types of degenerative spine disorders. While these disorders can have a variety of effects, back pain is a near-universal symptom.
  • Discogenic Pain – Discogenic pain results from damage to the discs in the spine. Many individuals with this condition experience sharp or shooting pain, and their pain will often worsen with prolonged periods of activity or inactivity.
  • Lower Back Pain – Lower back pain is extremely common, and it can be symptomatic of a variety of types of back injuries.
  • Sciatica – Sciatica is a condition characterized by damage to the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back into the lower body. Pain caused by sciatica typically starts in the lower back and extends through the hips and down one or both legs.
  • Upper Back and Neck Pain – Upper back and neck pain are also extremely common effects of car accidents. In many cases, this pain is the result of whiplash, which occurs when the head falls forward before quickly snapping (or “whipping”) back into place.

Talk To a Lawyer About Filing a Car Accident Claim

If you have been diagnosed with a back injury or are suffering from back pain following a car accident in Pennsylvania, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation. To speak with a lawyer at our offices in Easton, Stroudsburg, Doylestown, Bethlehem or Allentown in confidence, please call 888-777-7098 or get in touch online today.

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