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Take Control of Your Injuries: How To Relieve Neck and Back Pain After Car Accident

A motor vehicle accident can have a devastating impact and trauma to your body. During a car crash, your body may twist and turn, forcing your tendons and muscles to stretch beyond capacity. Your neck may jerk forward, backward, and take the brunt of the force from the wreck. Victims who know that an accident will happen tend to have the worst injuries because they tense up a few seconds prior.

When they tense, muscle strain, damage to the ligaments, nerves, muscles, discs, tendons, joints, and bones follow. The neck and back pain after a car accident may be due to severe or disabling damage. For some patients, spinal pain doesn’t end quickly. Injuries after a car accident can result in severe, chronic pain that requires extensive treatment.

Treatment Options For Back Pain

If you suffer neck or back pain because of an accident, the following guide may help you understand the pain relief options for car accident victims, and answer questions on the coverage of medical bills. 

Signs of Neck or Back Injury

A car accident neck injury can range from mild to severe. The neck (cervical spine) is made of seven tiny bones (vertebrae C1 to C7), vulnerable to the forceful action of a car accident. The back consists of 12 thoracic vertebrae in the upper back and five lumbar vertebrae in the lower back. In between the bones, you have intervertebral discs which separate each bone. The facet joints connect the bones so that you can pivot your head. Your spinal column has two segments; your subaxial spine and your craniocervical junction.

You can think of your cervical discs as shock absorbers. When you’re in a car accident, injuries will likely affect your discs. Additionally, your neck may suffer stretched, torn, or strained cervical ligaments.

When it comes to neck and back injuries, you may not recognize the severity of your injury right away. After an accident, your adrenaline is high, and you may not register your injuries as strongly as you usually would. Additionally, some injuries do not manifest with physical symptoms directly following the accident.

Physical Symptoms

When it comes to physical symptoms, you may experience minor pain, or you may experience excruciating pain. Some of the most common physical symptoms include:

  • An inability to move your head from side to side or up and down
  • A feeling of heaviness and stiffness in your head and neck
  • Throbbing pain in your neck, head, or back
  • Shooting pain in your neck, head, or back
  • Pain that migrates from your back to shoulder
  • Tenderness in the back of your head or spasms in your neck
  • Blurred vision and tinnitus

Any pain in your back and neck should be looked at by an emergency physician directly following the accident. Even if you think you have mild injuries, it is better to be safe than to worsen the injury by waiting to see a doctor.

Behavioral Symptoms

Physical symptoms are not the only symptoms you need to worry about. Some behavioral or emotional symptoms could indicate a variety of neck or back injuries. These symptoms include mood changes. Sometimes anxiety, depression, and irritability may be associated with accident trauma, but it may also be from your physical injuries. You may also experience difficulties with your memory in addition to an inability to sleep. No matter the reason, you should report any changes in your behavior to your medical provider.

Causes of Neck and Back Pain After Car Accident

One of the most common complaints from patients following an accident is neck or back pain. Your body is not built to withstand the speeds at which motor vehicle accidents occur. Even with a seatbelt, you can suffer from various injuries such as spinal pain.

Muscle Spasms

After an accident, you may experience soft tissue injuries like spasms and cramps in your shoulders, arms, and back. Often, the cramps occur because of muscle tension during the accident or because your muscles become overstretched. The swelling of the force affects the nerves.

Your body’s defense to protect hurt muscles is through contracting to immobilize the area. You may experience rapid tightening and loosening along with massive amounts of pain. Many patients with delayed neck pain will experience muscle spasms.

Lumbar Spine Injuries

A lumbar spine injury is any injury that occurs in the lower back. The injuries may range from sciatica to fractures of the spine. The physician will order clinical evaluations to diagnose a lumbar spine injury, including an MRI or X-ray. Patients with a lumbar spine injury may complain of mild discomfort or excruciating pain.

Whiplash

Whiplash is one of the most common car accident injuries in the cervical spine region. Whiplash happens when your body remains in place, and your head jerks backward and then forward. The injury affects your nerves, muscles, discs, and tendons and can produce significant pain. Generally, the first sign of whiplash is a pain in the shoulders and neck.

Neck Fracture

Neck fractures require immediate medical treatment and care. Neck fractures can refer to breaking any one of the seven or multiple bones. A broken neck can cause paralysis or death, damage the spinal cord nerves, and generate different spinal cord injuries.

Lumbar Sprain

A lumbar sprain may manifest as lower back pain that’s difficult to pinpoint. In a car crash, the sudden force damages the muscles and tissues of the back. Many car accident victims experience lumbar sprains after a rear-end collision.

Disc Herniation

To keep your vertebrae cushioned, you have porous structures known as vertebral discs. When thrown back and forth in a vehicle, you can knock your discs out of alignment or compress them. Other names for these injuries include slipped discs and herniated discs. You may suffer a herniated disc anywhere along your spinal cord. It is one of the top causes of spinal pain in the middle of the back. When it comes to the treatment of disc herniation, you may need physical therapy, or you may require surgery to fix it.

Facet Joint Injury

If you have a facet joint injury, you may have pain directly following a car wreck. It can also lead to the development of a degenerative spinal disorder. Essentially, you damage your facet joint or the cartilage that cushions your joints. To diagnose a facet joint injury, you may require imaging tests and other examinations.

Pinched Nerve

When damaged tissue, tendons, discs, or bones shift out of place, they may rub against the nerves or compress them to cause severe pain or numbness. If you have a pinched nerve, you may also suffer from a sprain, disc damage, or muscle strain.

Spinal Stenosis

If you do not treat your back injury promptly, you could develop spinal stenosis. This is a progressive condition that will continue to worsen with time. Think of your spinal cord as a channel in your vertebrae. Spinal stenosis narrows the canal and pinches the nerves inside.

If you develop spinal stenosis in the neck region, you may feel tingling in your arms or fingers, trouble lifting heavy objects, and neck stiffness. If you have spinal stenosis in your lumbar region, you may experience stiffness, sore hips, and loss of bladder control.

Treatment Options for Neck and Back Injuries

If you want to avoid long-term complications and have the best possible outlook, you need immediate medical care. Do not stall on treatment. While some injuries undergo therapy for a couple of weeks, other treatments can last for months, years or become a part of your lifetime care routine.

Non-surgical Options

Your medical practitioner will discuss the treatment methods that may be appropriate for your car accident caused injuries and your lifestyle. To relieve neck and back pain after a car accident, your doctor may ask you to take it easy for a while. They may tell you to rest and to stay away from strenuous activity.

The most common treatment is to apply ice to your neck for a couple of days if you have swelling. Once the swelling goes down, you can apply moist heat for pain. Most doctors will guide you through pain medication too. Many patients use pain relievers such as anti-inflammatory pain relievers and acetaminophen.

To keep you from causing further damage to your neck or back, you may need to use a neck brace or collar. Chiropractic care, physical therapy, acupuncture, along with stretches and massage, could also alleviate some of your pain. Other pain management treatment options include:

  • Radiofrequency ablation
  • Spinal cord stimulator
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Facet joint injections 

If you are uncertain about your treatment or your pain relief treatment isn’t efficient, talk with your doctor about changing your treatment method.

Surgical Options

Severe spinal injuries and neck injuries may require surgical treatment. Most spinal cord injuries are treated through the use of any surgical intervention. When it comes to neck injuries, your doctor will analyze the damage and review which options could best restore the ability in your neck.

Some treatment options may include:

  • Robotic spine surgery: Lumbar stenosis surgical treatment
  • Kyphoplasty: Outpatient surgery for fractured spine vertebrae
  • Fusion surgery: Procedure to fuse discs and stabilize the neck
  • Microdiscectomy: Procedure to remove bone spurs or discs

In some cases, surgical intervention is the only way to restore mobility.

Importance of Car Accident Doctors

An injury physician may help patients after a collision more than a general practitioner or a family physician. Auto accident doctors are those who specialize in treating injuries sustained in a crash. There are a few reasons you may want to visit an experienced auto injury doctor instead of your general practitioner.

Experienced in Car Accident Injuries

Experience should be one of your conditions whenever you choose a doctor for an ailment. If you’re dealing with a back injury car accident doctors treat, you can expect the physician to diagnose it and predict healing time and treatment. Doctors who specialize in treating car accident victims have dealt with patients like you before. They know the most common injuries associated with a collision and likely some of the more uncommon back and neck pain manifestations. They can document your past medical care, current medical care, and predicted treatment plan.

Are Medical Bills Covered After an Accident?

After a motor vehicle accident, most patients have difficulty figuring out how they will pay for their medical bills. While you hope your settlement will cover the cost of your medical expenses, it can take time to receive your compensation. In the meantime, you can’t ignore hospital bills. The good news is that no-fault insurance and PIP cover medical treatment after an accident. New York no-fault insurance, for example, covers up to $50,000 in necessary medical expenses.

Schedule Appointment a Car Accident Doctor for Neck and Back Injuries

After a car crash, your neck and back injuries may be debilitating. Fortunately, there are several pain relief methods along with long-term and short-term treatment options.  Contact us today to schedule an appointment with an experienced auto accident doctor near you. Medical providers in our free directory accept no-fault insurance, workers’ compensation, PIP (personal injury protection), medical liens, and other health insurance plans. Call today, same-day appointments may be available.