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Car accidents are notorious for causing back pain
Dr. Bruce MyersJul 20, 2020 10:48:26 AM10 min read

What Causes Back Pain After A Car Accident?

Car accidents can cause significant back injuries that impact your daily life.

Some accidents and injuries may seem minor, but you'll find out sooner or later that there's a lingering pain you feel in your back and neck.

Understanding the causes of this pain after motor vehicle accidents is crucial to recovering from the pain.

Below, we'll explore the various causes of back injuries during car accidents and some effective treatments.

Whether it's a minor fender bender or a major collision, auto accidents can lead to persistent back and neck pain.

Our goal is to offer guidance on managing various types of back pain caused by spinal cord injuries and muscle strains and explain the importance of medical treatments such as chiropractic care and physical therapy in your recovery process.

By staying informed, you can be better prepared for recovery after a car accident.


Table of Contents

How Do Car Accidents Cause Back Pain?

Car accidents exert a tremendous force on the body that can cause various types of back pain and spinal injuries.

This force causes a sudden, jerking motion, which can result in acute pain, chronic pain, and a range of severe injuries like whiplash that affect the spinal column and surrounding tissues.

The impact of a car accident can cause significant trauma to both the spinal discs and facet joints.

Spinal discs, acting as shock absorbers between the vertebrae, can suffer from herniations or ruptures due to the intense impact.

Similarly, facet joints, which aid in the spine's flexibility and stability, can also be damaged, causing joint pain and limited range of motion.

These injuries can manifest as lower back pain, neck pain, and even more severe conditions like spinal cord injuries or discogenic pain.

The sudden and forceful movement during an accident is not something the spinal column is designed to withstand, which is what causes these painful and debilitating conditions.

Back pain can significantly affect your quality of life, necessitating medical treatment and physical therapy.

The intervention of personal injury lawyers to manage medical expenses and recovery processes is sometimes necessary after an accident.

General Symptoms of Back Injuries After a Car Accident

The wide range of back injury symptoms can vary significantly, depending on the cause and severity of the car accident.

It's crucial to consult a medical professional immediately if you experience any discomfort or pain following a vehicular accident.

Prompt medical attention ensures accurate diagnosis and the formulation of an appropriate treatment plan, potentially including physical therapy or chiropractic care.

Symptoms may manifest immediately post-accident or could emerge days later, highlighting the importance of vigilant monitoring for any changes in your physical condition.

Common symptoms include:

  • General back, neck, and shoulder pain, potentially indicating soft tissue injuries or spinal disorders.
  • Headaches and migraines, which could be symptomatic of whiplash injury or cervical spine damage.
  • Numbness or tingling sensations, possibly signaling nerve damage or spinal cord injuries.
  • Burning sensations often associated with nerve irritation or damage.
  • Restricted range of motion, indicating potential joint injuries or muscle spasms.
  • Difficulty lifting objects is a common symptom of muscle strains or lumbar spine injury.

These symptoms, ranging from mild pain to severe injuries, can significantly impact your quality of life and daily activities.

Therefore, early intervention, possibly involving pain medications, ice therapy, or non-surgical treatments, is essential for a swift recovery to prevent long-term back pain.

Back Pain Caused by Auto Accidents

Experiencing discomfort, uneasiness, and pain in your back and neck regions after a car accident is often indicative of discogenic pain, a common car accident injury.

This type of pain is directly associated with the spinal discs, the round pieces of cartilage that act as a cushioning system for our backbones, aiding in movement and stability.

Discogenic pain often signifies that these spinal discs are either deteriorating gradually over time or have suffered sudden trauma, such as from a motor vehicle accident.

This pain is most commonly felt in the lumbar spine (the lower back) and can significantly impact your quality of life and daily activities.

The classification of pain depends on several factors and incidents.

Let's take a look at some of them now.

Lumbar Sprains

Lumbar sprains in the lower back typically result from excessive force from car crashes or activities like heavy weightlifting or sports.

These sprains occur when the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the back are overstretched due to physical trauma.

Diagnosing lumbar sprains often requires a thorough doctor-patient consultation, as imaging technologies may not always detect the extent of the injury.

Disc Herniation

Disc herniation, another severe injury from auto accidents, involves trauma to the cushion-like discs between the vertebrae.

This condition occurs when the soft inner core of these discs protrudes through the tougher outer layer.

While the rupture may not be intensely painful, significant discomfort arises when this protruding material impacts nearby nerves.

Also called pinched nerves or slipped discs, disc herniation can lead to chronic pain and requires prompt medical treatment.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is the abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal, often resulting from natural aging, but can be exacerbated or triggered by physical trauma like a car accident.

This narrowing, often due to a ruptured disc or bone fragment invading the spinal canal space, puts undue pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, leading to pain and discomfort.


How to Diagnose the Pain in the Lower Back After a Car Accident

The lumbar spine consists of five vertebrae and is cushioned by soft discs, each with a rigid outer ring and a soft nucleus.

Initially high in water content, these discs lose hydration over time, making them prone to annular tears, leading to inflammation and severe pain.

This degeneration can be exacerbated by a motor vehicle accident, intensifying the need for accurate diagnosis.

To pinpoint the cause of lower back pain following an auto accident, consulting a medical professional is crucial.

Advanced imaging tests like MRI or tomography are instrumental in locating specific damage.

Additional diagnostic methods, such as discography, can detect fractures, tears, or cracks, ensuring a comprehensive assessment and an effective treatment plan for recovery.


How to Treat Discogenic Pain

If you feel any discomfort or pain in your spine after being involved in an automobile accident, you should seek medical attention right away.

This is crucial to address common injuries that occur as a result of car accidents.

Your medical care provider will guide you through a treatment plan, which may include specific practices, pain medications, and physical therapy.

These methods are designed to improve your range of motion and alleviate pain, particularly in cases of acute pain or chronic pain from spinal injuries.

Should these initial approaches, including anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapies, fail to provide significant pain relief, exploring non-surgical treatments becomes necessary.

These options aim to offer long-term back pain relief without immediate recourse to surgery.

When conservative treatments such as chiropractic care and muscle relaxants fail to manage intense pain, surgical intervention may be necessary to restore daily activities and quality of life.


The Facet Joints in the Spine

Facet joints, though less known, are crucial components of the spinal structure.

These joints, enveloped in a thick, flexible membrane, secrete fluid that lubricates them, facilitating smooth and natural movement.

They support the body's weight and limit excessive movement between vertebrae, ensuring spinal stability.

Weak or damaged facet joints can lead to improper posture and restricted mobility.

This restriction is why we cannot bend excessively sideways, backward, or forwards.

In the context of a motor vehicle accident, the impact can strain these joints, leading to common symptoms like joint pain, limited range of motion, and, in severe cases, chronic pain or spinal disorders.


Symptoms Felt From Damaged Facet Joints

Damaged facet joints usually manifest as involuntary muscle spasms.

These spasms can abruptly force the spine out of alignment, leading to intensified pain in the back or neck.

For example, a simple action like bending to pick something up can trigger a sudden muscle spasm, causing intense pain and momentarily immobilizing the individual.

It's crucial to distinguish between the symptoms of facet joint injuries and spinal disc issues.

Locked facet joints can cause sharp and sudden pain due to the joints being immobile, which is different from disc injuries, which cause gradual discomfort.

Releasing the frozen joint can effectively treat locked facet joints and help alleviate pain significantly.

Incorporating chiropractic care, which focuses on spinal alignment and health, can be particularly beneficial in managing and recovering from such injuries.

Seeking prompt medical attention and a tailored treatment plan can dramatically enhance recovery times and improve the quality of life for those suffering from these common car accident injuries.


Car Accidents Affect the Muscles As Well

Motor vehicle accidents can have a significant impact on not just the spinal column and skeletal structures but also the muscles, which can result in chronic pain and discomfort.

It's important to note that even if there's no immediate back pain or the pain doesn't seem muscle-related, seeking prompt advice from a medical professional is crucial for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Auto accidents can lead to various muscle-related injuries. Here's an overview of some common issues:

Injuries to Soft Muscle Tissue

One prevalent type of muscle injury post-car accident is a soft tissue injury.

Whiplash, a typical example, affects the neck muscles and can cause pain that extends into the shoulders and back.

This injury is especially common in rear-end collisions and involves more than just the impact site; it's a series of soft tissue strains that can significantly affect your range of motion and quality of life.

Muscle Weakness

A herniated disc from a car accident can lead to muscle weakness, contributing to back pain and difficulty in performing daily activities.

This condition might manifest as an inability to lift objects, regardless of their weight, and can be accompanied by numbness or tingling sensations, often in the arms and legs.

These symptoms might not appear immediately post-accident. In some cases, they can emerge weeks or even months later.

If you experience any muscle weakness, sudden pain, or discomfort following a car accident, it's imperative to seek immediate medical attention.

Early intervention by a medical professional can prevent these symptoms from evolving into long-term health issues.


Is It Possible to Get Compensation for Back Pain Caused by an Auto Accident?

Experiencing back pain after a motor vehicle accident can be physically and financially burdensome.

Fortunately, victims can pursue a personal injury claim for such injuries.

While many back injuries from auto accidents are treatable with advanced medical care, severe cases like paralysis, which are rare but significant, can yield substantial compensation.

In some instances, patients may undergo procedures like spinal fusion, which can incur considerable medical expenses.

The duration of your medical treatment also plays a crucial role in the settlement amount.

For example, a five-month treatment plan typically results in more compensation than a two-week treatment.

Additional factors influencing compensation include the need for steroid treatments due to the accident.

Filing a claim can help cover these costs.

Establishing a clear link between the injuries and the car accident is crucial to successfully file a claim.

Consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer is essential for understanding the potential compensation for treating back injuries resulting from a car accident.

They can provide detailed insights into your case and guide you through the legal process for claiming rightful compensation.


Get Pain Relief at Arrowhead Clinic

Understanding the causes of back pain following motor vehicle accidents is crucial, but it's just the beginning.

Immediate medical attention is essential at the onset of pain post-accident to pinpoint your injury's exact nature and location.

Chiropractic care is particularly adept at addressing spinal cord injuries, soft tissue injuries, and other common car accident injuries.

It's a trusted solution for managing intense pain and muscle spasms, improving range of motion, and enhancing overall quality of life.

Every day, thousands seek chiropractic treatments for relief from neck and back pain, including lumbar spine pain and various accident injuries.

If you need a professional evaluation of your injury, Arrowhead Clinic offers a free consultation with experienced chiropractors.

Don't let back pain control your daily life; click below for expert care tailored to your needs.

Free Back Pain Consultation


Dr. Bruce Myers

Dr. Bruce attended Harvey Mudd College prior to enrolling in Life Chiropractic College. Following graduation in 1986, he worked as an associate for Dr. James Reed in Tucker, GA and later purchased the practice. After 20 years as a solo practitioner, he relocated to Columbus, GA to work for Brodwyn and Associates. After 6 years in Columbus, he joined Arrowhead Clinic in Hinesville in order to be closer to the beach. Dr. Bruce has postgraduate training in Whiplash Injury Biomechanics & Traumatology 2018, Modules 1-4, Spine Research Institute of San Diego. In addition to personal injury, posture analysis and extremity care. While in Tucker and Columbus, he was very involved in the community and served as the team chiropractor for numerous sports teams in the area.