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How To Treat Back Pain After Car Accident Injuries

How To Treat Back Pain After Car Accident Injuries

Of the more than 4 million emergency department visits that occur each year for motor vehicle accident injuries, approximately one-half had a primary diagnosis of a strain or sprain of the back or neck. Given this statistic, to say that back pain after a car accident is common is an understatement.


Even the most seemingly minor car accidents can result in back pain that trouble crash victims for months, if not years, after the incident. Evidence shows that collisions that occur at speeds as low as 10 miles per hour can trigger whiplash, a primarily head and neck injury that causes significant pain from the neck down. Neck and back pain — whether triggered by whiplash or another more serious injury — can be debilitating and interfere with all aspects of your life, ranging from your work to your personal relationships.

To minimize the impact car accident back pain has on your life, it is important that you take steps immediately after the crash to begin your recovery, such as by seeking an evaluation and treatment from an auto accident injury doctor.

Common Car Accident Injuries That Cause Back Pain

Common Car Accident Injuries That Cause Back Pain

Car accidents can put a tremendous amount of force on the spine and cause it to move in unnatural ways and at unnatural speeds. Understandably, then, car accidents are one of the leading causes of back injuries worldwide.

A car accident can injure you in several ways, but some of the most common reasons for back pain after car accident are as follows:

  • Whiplash: Whiplash occurs when sudden force thrusts the head and neck forward then backward at unnatural speeds. In the process, it tears or strains the neck muscles, ligaments and/or tendons. The result is pain throughout the neck and back, numbness and tingling in the arms, neck stiffness, and dizziness.

Whiplash from Car Accident

  • Spinal Disc Injury: The spine consists of 23 spinal discs, each of which provides cushion for the vertebrae and absorbs much of the pressure that the spine experiences. Spinal disc injuries include herniated discs, bulging discs, and annular tears. Annular tears can cause localized pain and inflammation, while a herniated disc or bulging discs can cause numbness, weakness, and/or a burning sensation throughout the back.
  • Sprains and Strains: Back strains affect the tendons while sprains involve ligaments. Both types of injuries often cause chronic pain, tightness, and muscle spasms.
  • Facet Joint Injury: The facet joints are the joints that sit between the spine bones and that house the nerve roots that run through various parts of your body, such as your arms and legs. When a facet joint sustains damage, it can affect the nerves, which can therefore affect various bodily functions, such as the ability to sit, twist, move your arm, etc. Symptoms of facet joint injuries include muscle tightness, spasms, tenderness, and radiating pain.
  • Lumbar Spine or Thoracic Vertebrae Fractures: 33 bones make up your backbone and protect the spinal cord. When one or several of these bones break, your doctor may tell you that you have a broken back. He or she may also use one of the following terms: Compression fracture, burst fracture, flexion fracture, or fracture-dislocation. Depending on where the break occurs and the level of force that caused the break, you may experience moderate to severe discomfort that becomes worse with movement, loss of consciousness or even brain damage.
  • Spondylolisthesis: Spondylolisthesis occurs when a stress fracture along the spinal column causes the vertebrae to become dislocated. When this occurs, the nerves or spinal canal may become increasingly compressed with each movement. Symptoms of spondylolisthesis depend on the site of the injury and the amount of displacement. However, they typically include numbness, weakness and pain, as well as difficulty walking.

An experienced auto accident doctor can identify the reason for your car accident back pain and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Treatment for Back Pain After a Car Accident

The type and extent of treatment you require for a car accident-related back injury depends on several factors, including the type of injury you sustained, the speed at which your crash occurred, the symptoms you experience and several others that are unique to your situation.

After performing a thorough evaluation, your auto accident doctor may prescribe a treatment plan that includes one or several of the following rehabilitation techniques:


Rest is one of the best things you can do for your back in the days immediately following your car accident. Your doctor may recommend that you take a couple of days to a few weeks off work so as to avoid sitting at a desk all day or standing on your feet for long periods. Both activities can put your back under considerably more strain than is healthy for it.

Your doctor may also recommend that you apply heat and ice alternatingly to the injured area. Both can help reduce inflammation, soothe tight muscles and relieve pain.

Gentle Exercise

Though it may seem like a direct contradiction to resting, gentle exercise is crucial to your recovery. As soon as your doctor gives you the go-ahead, incorporate light, low-impact exercise into your healing regimen. Simply walking for 15 to 20 minutes a day can strengthen your back muscles and joints, prevent stiffness, and reduce swelling and inflammation. Together, these outcomes mean less pain and a quicker recovery.

Physical Therapy

If your back sustained considerable damage, your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist. Physical therapy can help you restore your back strength and improve your range of motion following a back injury.

Pain Medication

Though not a long-term solution, your doctor may prescribe you over-the-counter pain relievers for back pain after a car accident. Over-the-counter medications such as Ibuprofen can help reduce inflammation and make the pain more bearable. However, if you find that you need to continue to take the medications beyond a week after your crash, talk to your doctor about getting a prescription for stronger anti-inflammatories or muscle relaxants.


If you have a pinched nerve or excessive inflammation, your doctor may recommend a corticosteroid injection to help with your car accident back pain. Though temporary solutions, these injections provide relief for several days, weeks or even months, thereby giving the body enough time to heal properly.

Massage Therapy

More health care providers are beginning to recognize massage therapy not just for its feel-good benefits but also, for its health benefits. Recent research suggests that massage helps to reduce lower back pain and improve chronic back pain. This is likely because massage improves blood circulation throughout the body, which aids in muscle recovery. Massage also helps to improve your range of motion.

Massage Therapy

When used in conjunction with more widely accepted methods of back pain treatment, massage can have substantial health benefits for car accident victims. As a bonus, massage boosts endorphin levels, which can greatly enhance your body’s ability to manage chronic pain.

Alternative Treatments

Several alternative treatments exist that are highly effective for treating back pain. Though many health care providers do not recognize them, these methods can make a world of difference in the levels of pain patients experience, especially when combined with other, more traditional forms of care.

Common alternative treatments for back pain include biofeedback therapy, laser therapy, acupuncture, and electrical nerve stimulation.


Back surgery is a last resort option for the treatment of back pain and back injuries. Your doctor may recommend surgery only once your medical team has exhausted all other options, and only after ensuring you are well aware of the benefits and risks.

If successful, back surgery can benefit you in several ways. For instance, it can improve your ability to move around comfortably, increase your levels of physical fitness and help you go back to work. As your pain goes down and your levels of physical activity go up, you may also find that you feel more emotionally well as well.

Back surgery does come with several risks, including the fact that it may not have much of an improvement on your condition. It is important that you discuss the risks with your auto accident doctor before agreeing to such an extensive operation.

What Doctor To See for Back Pain

Though treatment from your primary care physician is better than no treatment at all, you will, ideally, seek care from a doctor who has specialized knowledge in car accident back pain and related injuries.

The doctors listed at Injured Call Today have extensive experience treating auto accident injuries and offer a wide- range of treatment options of varying levels of complexity. Some of our medical specialties include pain management, chiropractic, orthopedic surgery, neurology, physical therapy, acupuncture, and physical medicine and rehabilitation. They utilize a multi-disciplinary approach that enables them to deliver the broad range of care our patients need to enjoy a full and speedy recovery.

Doctors listed in our directory accept no-fault insurance, PIP (Personal injury Protection), medical liens, workers’ compensation, and more. These physicians have practice lications in New York and New Jersey. If you live in either state and live with back pain after a car accident, do not wait much longer to seek treatment. Submit a request for an appointment online, or call (800) 897-8440 to find an experienced auto injury doctor near you.