Neck and lower back pain is common after an accident, and it’s usually caused by whiplash, herniated discs, or soft-tissue injuries. These types of injuries can range from mild to severe. If you’ve been in an accident and you have any concerns about neck and lower back pain, it’s best to get it checked out by a doctor right away.
The following are the most common causes of neck and lower back pain after a car crash. These injuries can be serious and expensive to treat, and if you don’t seek treatment they could get worse.
Whiplash is a neck injury that occurs when the head “whips” back and forth in a quick, forceful manner. Rear-end collisions are one of the most common causes of whiplash, but falls, sports injuries, and other types of trauma can all cause whiplash. People who are in an accident and suffer whiplash typically experience:
- Stiffness and pain in the neck
- Uncomfortable or painful neck movement
- Pain or soreness in the shoulders, arms or upper back
- A pins-and-needles sensation in the arms
Whiplash injuries tend to be more serious if the initial pain is severe, the pain spreads to the arms or the neck’s range of motion is severely limited. Old age and high-speed accidents are also factors.
Most of the time, people who experience whiplash recover after a few weeks with medication and mild physical therapy. Sometimes, however, whiplash causes chronic pain, which will make the road to recovery a longer one.
Whiplash injuries are not observable through imaging tests (such as CT scans, MRIs or X-rays), but when treating a whiplash injury, doctors will likely order imaging tests anyway to rule out breaks and fractures, bone damage or soft-tissue injuries.
The spine consists of 33 bones, which are called vertebrae. The vertebrae are then grouped into the four distinct segments of the spine: the cervical spine (neck), the thoracic spine (upper back), the lumbar spine (lower back), and the sacral spine (below the waist).
Between each vertebra are tough, spongy discs that you can think of as shock absorbers. During a car accident or a fall, these discs can actually rupture, causing fluids and disc fragments to put pressure on nerves in the back.
Depending on the location of the herniated disc and the nerve on which it’s putting pressure, symptoms of a herniated disc might include:
- Back spasms
- Continuous or intermittent back pain that is made worse by moving or standing for long periods
- Numbness in the feet or legs
- Changes in bowel or bladder function
- Pain that radiates from the buttocks to the calves or feet (sciatica)
Doctors diagnose herniated discs through the use of X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a computed tomography (CT) scan, or electromyography (EMG). Once doctors diagnose herniated discs, they are typically treated with bed rest, physical therapy, medication to relax muscles and manage pain, and, in more severe instances, surgery to remove the herniated portion of the disc and relieve pressure on the nerve.
The term soft-tissue injuries refers to injuries to ligaments, muscles or tendons. Strains, sprains, contusions (bruises), tendinitis, and bursitis are all good examples. Soft-tissue injuries are generally not severe; they can usually be treated by simple rest, compression, elevation and ice packs to reduce swelling.
Cost of Treatment
The cost of treating neck and lower back pain is difficult to calculate because there are so many different causes. Car accidents commonly result in neck and back injuries. The severity of said injuries can vary greatly as can the cost of treatment. If you’ve been involved in an accident and are experiencing pain, the first thing you should do is talk to your doctor. After that, you should talk to an attorney who handles injury cases. Your injuries could be more serious than you realize, and treatment could get expensive.