With all the headaches being in a car accident causes, a physical injury can seem like rubbing salt in the wound.
While procuring repairs, finding alternative transportation, and calling your insurance provider might take up most of your time, it is important to keep an eye on your health – and your spine in particular.
High Risk of Neck and Back Injury Associated with Car Accidents
It is impossible to say exactly how many cases of whiplash there are each year, as not all sufferers seek treatment. At least 3 million Americans suffer from whiplash annually.
Important: Wait Before Signing a Release of Liability for a Settlement Claim
Whiplash doesn’t always appear immediately and it can take a few days before presenting itself.
It is, therefore, important to take your time before signing a release of liability for a settlement claim. While you might initially feel you haven’t sustained an injury, a whiplash injury could still present itself. If this happens, signing too early means you can no longer seek compensation.
As an injured accident victim, you should always consult an attorney before signing any waiver or release offered to you by an insurance company that is accompanied by a financial settlement.
An attorney will be able to identify if the proposed settlement covers all of your current and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost work days or diminished capacity to work. An auto accident lawyer also will be able to determine if additional insurance coverages are available such as from uninsured or underinsured motorists coverage.
Delayed Pain After Car Accidents
While most people usually refer to all neck and back pain after car accidents as whiplash, not all injuries would be called so by medical professionals. More specific injuries, such as spinal stenosis, may cause minor symptoms at first but worsen over time.
If you have back or neck pain that developed in the days following an accident, it is important to consult your physician for medical attention and an attorney because, until a medical diagnosis is reached with imaging, back or neck pain and other soft tissue damage can indicate underlying serious medical conditions that should be addressed immediately.
Accident victims should never ignore head, neck or back pain that materializes days or weeks later. Pain from neck injuries and other back injuries may be delayed in presenting itself and can be costly to treat.
How Car Accidents Cause Neck and Back Pain
An object in motion stays in motion.
Unfortunately, this law of physics still holds true in a car accident. When your car collides with another, your body continues moving forward until something forces it to stop.
Your seatbelt and airbags help moderate the impact and thus reduce injury by controlling how your body comes to a stop. However, even with these, the spine can be violently jostled during an accident.
Because of this forceful movement on the spine, it is common to experience neck and lower back pain after a car accident.
How Long Does Back Pain Last After a Rear End Collision?
How long your back hurts after a car accident depends on the type and severity of your injury, as well as the quality of your care. For example, pain from correctly treated acute injuries generally doesn’t last more than six weeks.
If back or neck pain persists for a longer period, an attorney could recommend a victim seek an additional review and treatment from a different provider, or undergo a more enhanced medical review.
Extended neck and back pain is potentially serious because of the proximity to nerves and blood flow and its threat to alter your employment status if you lift packages or operate equipment or have to sit at a desk for long periods of time.
How is Back Pain Treated?
Types of Treatments for Lower Back Pain
Spinal injuries frequently cause a reduced range of motion. This can be due to the nature of the injury preventing motion, or the act of motion causing pain. Physical therapy uses strategic exercises to help restore movement and rebuild any lost muscle mass from lack of motion.
Additionally, if over-the-counter medications aren’t helping your pain, or you are experiencing other symptoms, your doctor may prescribe more specific medications. This could take the form of stronger painkillers to directly manage your pain, or a sleep aid to make resting easier.
Surgery as a Treatment for Lower Back Pain
Serious injuries might require surgical correction right off the bat. In other cases, surgery might be recommended if less invasive treatments aren’t working.
If your injuries resulted from an auto accident, your vehicle insurance will likely pay initial medical bills through no-fault PIP coverage. However, if surgery is required, medical expenses may exhaust PIP funds and you would seek coverage through your own health insurance, or from uninsured or underinsured coverage options available in your policy if you opted to purchase them.
That is why it is important to have an attorney review all potential insurance coverages that could be available to provide you with the most appropriate treatment recommended by a medical professional.
Car Accident Back Pain
Although forceful motion in a motor vehicle accident causes spinal injuries, the nature of the injuries can vary. Here are some common reasons your back hurts after a car accident.
The lumbar region is the lower back. Spraining the lumbar region is a very common injury in a car accident. A sprain is a tear or stretch in a ligament.
Sprains can cause lower back pain, soreness, and spasms.
Discs are found in between the vertebrae of the spine. These discs are tough on the outside but soft and jellylike on the inside. They behave a bit like bungee cords, keeping the spine connected while still allowing a certain amount of stretching, compression, and movement.
Disc herniation occurs when the tough, cartilage exterior of a disc is damaged, causing the interior gel to seep out.
Herniated discs can cause numbness and weakness, difficulty walking or using fine motor skills, and pain.
Degenerative Spinal Disorders
If this isn’t your first injury, you can develop a degenerative spinal disorder. Strains and sprains, as well as age and overuse of the back, can contribute to the development of this condition.
This disorder causes the erosion of the spine, causing symptoms such as back pain and sciatica.
Diagnosing Lower Back Pain from Car Accident
With so many injuries possible, and with many sharing symptoms, it is important to correctly identify your specific injury. Many car accident injuries can be identified through medical imaging such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans.
That said, if you are experiencing lower back pain after a car accident, make an appointment with your physician to determine the best action plan.
The expenses of dealing with injuries after a car crash could be substantial with the high cost of medical diagnosis and treatments for back and neck pain because it involves seeking the help of medical specialists.
That is why it is important to consult an experienced car accident attorney who knows how to review insurance policies to see if there are additional financial resources available to cover future medical bills.
Treating Discogenic Pain
Discogenic pain is another cause of back pain. It likely occurs when nerves in the annulus (a tire-like structure that strengthens the spine’s rotational stability) are irritated, though medical research is still investigating this. Fortunately, effective treatments are proven and available.
As with other forms of back pain, discogenic pain can be treated with physical therapy. Therapy for discogenic pain generally takes the form of exercises and stretches.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be used to control discogenic pain. Injections are also available. Additionally, your doctor may recommend prescription painkillers if over-the-counter drugs aren’t reducing your pain.
Surgery is a last resort, but when it’s necessary, the most common operation is spinal fusion. This procedure permanently fuses two or more vertebrae together similarly to how bones naturally heal. Fusing the spine provides stability and strength to problem areas, thus reducing pain.
Other Types of Injuries
Many other injuries can cause lower back pain after a car accident. Some of these are broken bones, vertebrae dislocation, and eventual bone spurs. Facet injuries are also possible.
Facet Injuries after a Car Accident
Facet joints are small joints that help stabilize the spine. They can become swollen after an accident, causing a host of symptoms sometimes referred to as facet joint syndrome. These symptoms include:
- Acute and intermittent back pain.
- Radiating pain in the upper legs and neck.
- Loss of mobility due to swollen joints, which can make it difficult to turn the spine in certain directions.
Proper Diagnosis and Treatment for Facet Joint Injuries
Facet joint injuries often mimic other injuries of the spine. As a result, the clearest diagnosis is made with a facet joint injection, which uses dyes to assist with medical imaging. Injections also include anesthetics and steroids to reduce pain. The absence of pain after an injection confirms a facet joint injury.
Follow-up injections can be used as a treatment for facet joint injuries to reduce pain.
What to Do If You Have Lower Back Pain After a Car Accident
The most important thing to do if your back hurts after a car accident is to work closely with your medical providers and also consult an experienced car accident attorney. Because of the possibility of damage or injury to the spinal cord, spinal discs, and delicate nerves that could impact your future mobility or your ability to work or return to work, experts recommend any back or neck pain be reported to a medical professional as soon as is physically possible after it develops.
Working with your medical providers is beneficial not just for your health, but it also provides you with more information and documentation to pursue the compensation you need after an accident. After all, if you have suffered an injury that requires expensive treatment or surgery because of someone else’s negligence , you deserve compensation to cover the procedures and treatment. An attorney will review all of your medical bills and medical records to assure you will be receiving the maximum amount of compensation available for you from insurance coverage.