You've been in a car accident, and now your back hurts. Unfortunately, back pain is one of the most common injuries resulting from motor vehicle collisions. The forces exerted on your body during an impact can cause damage to the muscles, ligaments, and vertebrae in your spine. There are several types of back injuries you may be experiencing in the days or weeks following a crash. It's important to understand the various causes of back pain so you know whether rest and physical therapy are sufficient, or if you require more intensive treatment. Also, it is important to consider your legal options with a car accident attorney.
Muscle Strains and Sprains
Muscle strains and sprains are common types of back pain after a car accident. The sudden impact can cause muscles and tendons in the back to twist, pull, or tear.
Signs of a muscle strain or sprain include:
- Sharp or dull pain in the lower back that may radiate to the buttocks or legs
- Muscle spasms or tightness
- Swelling or bruising over the affected area
- Difficulty moving or loss of range of motion
To recover from a muscle strain or sprain, rest the back for 1-2 days. Then, apply heat or ice for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day to reduce inflammation. An over-the-counter pain reliever can also help with discomfort.
After 48 hours, gentle stretching and strengthening exercises may help. Walking, swimming or yoga are good options. However, avoid any activity that aggravates your symptoms. See a doctor for severe or persistent back pain. They may recommend physical therapy, massage therapy or prescription medication.
In rare cases, back surgery may be needed to repair damaged muscles, tendons or nerves. But in most instances, muscle strains and sprains will heal on their own within 2 to 4 weeks with proper rest, rehabilitation, and time. Be patient through the recovery process and avoid re-injury. With care and commitment to strengthening your core and back muscles, you can get beyond this painful chapter.
Herniated or Bulging Disks
Herniated or bulging disks in the spine are common after a car accident and can cause debilitating back pain. The impact from a collision can rupture or push a disk out of its normal position, compressing nearby nerves.
There are two main types of disk injuries:
- Herniated disk: The inner gel-like nucleus pushes through the outer ring of the disk, irritating nerves. This is commonly referred to as a “slipped” or “ruptured” disk.
- Bulging disk: The disk remains intact but protrudes unevenly into the spinal canal, putting pressure on nerves. Although less severe than a herniation, a bulging disk can still cause significant pain and discomfort.
Symptoms of a disk injury may include:
• Sharp or shooting pain in the back, hips, and legs. The pain may worsen with sitting, standing, or walking.
• Muscle spasms or cramps.
• Numbness or tingling in the legs, feet, and buttocks.
• Weakness in the legs. Difficulty lifting the foot or straightening the knee.
To diagnose a disk injury, your doctor may order imaging tests like an MRI or CT scan. Treatment options include rest, physical therapy, medication, steroid injections, and in severe cases, surgery to remove or repair the damaged disk. With proper treatment and time, most people with disk injuries from a car accident can significantly reduce their pain and regain mobility and strength.
Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. Sciatica is usually caused by compression of the sciatic nerve, often due to a herniated disk in the spine or bone spurs in the vertebrae.
The pain from sciatica can range from a dull ache to a sharp, burning sensation. Some common symptoms include:
- Pain in the lower back, hip, buttock, and leg
- Numbness or muscle weakness in the leg or foot
- A sharp pain that makes standing up or walking difficult
To diagnose sciatica, your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms, conduct a physical exam, and may order imaging tests like an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan to help determine the underlying cause of your sciatic nerve compression. Treatment options aim to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve and may include:
•Rest - Avoiding activities that aggravate your symptoms can provide relief. Apply ice packs to the painful area to reduce inflammation.
•Physical therapy - Exercises that strengthen your back and leg muscles and improve flexibility can help stabilize the spine and take pressure off the sciatic nerve.
•Medication - Over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription medication may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation. Muscle relaxants can also help relieve spasms.
• Epidural steroid injections - Corticosteroid medication is injected into the area around the sciatic nerve to help reduce pressure and provide pain relief.
•Surgery - If conservative treatments do not provide relief from symptoms, surgery may be recommended as a last resort to correct the underlying condition causing nerve compression.
Sciatica will often clear up on its own in 4 to 6 weeks with self-care and nonsurgical treatments. Be sure to consult your doctor right away if your pain is severe or persistent, as prompt diagnosis and treatment may help avoid permanent damage or injury. With patience and proper care, most people with sciatica can experience significant relief from their pain and return to normal activities.
Whiplash is one of the most common injuries resulting from a car accident. Whiplash occurs when the head is suddenly jerked backward and forward, straining the neck muscles and ligaments. This can cause damage to the muscles, tendons, and vertebrae in the neck.
Symptoms of whiplash may include:
- Neck pain and stiffness. Pain typically begins within hours of the accident, though it can take days to appear. The neck may feel tender to the touch.
- Headaches. Whiplash can trigger migraines or tension headaches, especially in the base of the skull.
- Dizziness or vertigo. Damage to the neck can impact the inner ear and balance system, resulting in a feeling of being off-balance or lightheaded.
- Numbness or tingling. Pressure on the neck vertebrae or nerves can lead to numbness, pins and needles sensation, or weakness in the arms, hands, and fingers.
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering. Mild brain trauma from the impact can temporarily impact cognitive function and memory. This is usually short-lived but can persist in some cases.
- Insomnia or fatigue. The pain and discomfort from whiplash make it difficult to sleep, often leading to tiredness during the day. Stress and anxiety after the accident may also contribute to sleeplessness and fatigue.
If you experience symptoms of whiplash after a car accident, see your doctor right away. Early diagnosis and treatment is key to preventing long-term damage and disability. Treatment options include pain medication, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture and in severe cases, neck bracing or surgery. With proper rest and rehabilitation, most people fully recover from whiplash within a few months.
Fractures in the back can occur due to the extreme forces exerted on the spine during a car accident. The vertebrae, disks, and surrounding soft tissues can become damaged from the impact. Fractures typically require medical attention to diagnose and treat.
The most common types of back fractures from car accidents include:
- Compression fractures: Where the vertebral body collapses due to high pressure. The vertebrae can lose height, causing pain, mobility issues and spinal instability.
- Burst fractures: Where the vertebral body shatters into multiple pieces under intense pressure. Bone fragments can damage the spinal cord and nerves. Surgery is often required to stabilize the spine.
- Transverse process fractures: Where the bony protrusions on the sides of the vertebrae break. While not as severe as vertebral body fractures, they can still cause pain, swelling and bruising.
- Facet joint fractures: Where the joints connecting the vertebrae fracture. This can lead to spinal instability and require bracing or surgery to fuse the joints.
After a car accident, it's critical to get evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible for any potential back fractures or damage. Early diagnosis and proper treatment is key to recovering mobility, functionality and quality of life. An experienced personal injury attorney can also help determine if you need to pursue legal action due to the negligence of another driver.
Contact Fletcher Law For Help With Your Back Injury Case
If you have suffered injuries from a car accident, contacting an experienced personal injury attorney is critical. A lawyer can advise you on the proper steps to take and help you build a strong case to pursue compensation.
Consult With A Personal Injury Attorney
Consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident. They can walk you through the legal process, determine if you have grounds for a personal injury claim, and handle negotiations with insurance companies on your behalf. Personal injury attorneys work on contingency, meaning you typically pay nothing upfront and they take a percentage of your settlement or award.
Provide Medical Records and Bills
To build a compelling case, your attorney will need detailed medical records and bills related to your injuries. Seek medical attention promptly after an accident and comply fully with recommended treatments. Keep records of doctor visits, physical therapy appointments, medications, and other care. Your medical history will serve as key evidence to demonstrate the severity of your injuries.
Expect A Thorough Review of Your Case
Expect your attorney to conduct a thorough review of the details surrounding your accident. They will examine police and medical reports, interview witnesses, consult with medical experts, and evaluate factors like damage to the vehicles involved. The more information they have about how the crash occurred and the specifics of your resulting injuries, the stronger your personal injury claim will be.
Allow Time For a Fair Settlement
Do not feel pressure to settle quickly with insurance companies. It can take months or even years to determine the full extent of injuries and a fair settlement amount. Your attorney has experience negotiating with insurance companies and will fight for the maximum compensation you deserve. With patience and persistence, you stand the best chance of a settlement that adequately covers your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
The team at Fletcher Law has extensive experience helping clients with personal injury claims involving motor vehicle accidents. Contact us today for a free consultation and case evaluation. We will help you pursue the justice and compensation you deserve after suffering harm in a car crash.