The human spine is an intricate, complex, and delicate structure. It is not built to absorb the severe impacts that often accompany car crashes. However, during car collisions, very often it is the back and neck that suffer the severest consequences. The muscles and ligaments of the entire spine can experience considerable strain. As well, the facet joints tend to absorb a large percentage of the force generated during a crash. These events can precipitate severe injuries, including whiplash, compression fractures, disc herniation, and spondylolisthesis.
As it concerns injuries to the neck, various studies have shown that 40 to 70 percent of individuals suffering a whiplash injury still suffer symptoms from the trauma more than a decade later.
Two of the most commonly experienced spinal injuries are disc and facet joint injuries. These injuries often produce a significant amount of discomfort and debilitating pain.
Symptoms of Back and Neck Injuries
There are number of symptoms to look for in the aftermath of a car crash incident that can indicate the presence of a significant neck or back injury. These include:
- Acute pain in the arms or legs
- Pain or swelling in the neck
- Numbness of the hands, arms, legs, or feet
- Loss of the bladder or bowel control
- Severe pain or pressure in the head, neck, or back
- Inability to properly breathe
- Difficulties with balance or walking
- Muscle weakness
- Twisted or oddly positioned back or neck
- Lifelong immobility
- Permanent paralysis
How neck injuries happen in car accidents
Whiplash can be a serious and disabling injury, yet sometimes isn’t taken seriously because it’s a soft tissue injury, meaning it doesn’t show up on x-rays and therefore is more difficult to diagnose. However, it is a legitimate injury. Here’s how it happens during a car accident, most often during a rear-end collision.
When your car is struck from behind, your body goes through a rapid acceleration and deceleration (the car being pushed forward and then stopping). Let’s think about it in slow motion. First, your torso moves forward while your head moves backward, creating a shearing force in your neck. Then, your seat belt likely goes tight to stop your torso while your head accelerates forward. This strains the ligaments and muscles in your neck and can cause damage to spinal fibers and vertebrae. Your brain can also jostle and hit the inside of your skull, or your head could even hit the steering wheel, causing a traumatic brain injury.
Treating neck injuries
Most whiplash injuries heal with proper care. However, some people with whiplash injuries will still have pain and restricted movement on a permanent basis. Some will deal with the after-effects for the rest of their lives.
You need skilled medical help from the beginning to assist in your recovery. Typically, this includes orthopedic or chiropractic care. Your treatment may include massage, physical therapy, and rehabilitation. Soft tissue rehabilitation is treatment that works with anything that’s not bone—muscles, ligaments, tendons, or spinal discs. Stretching exercises, trigger point therapy, or range of motion exercises can all help with soft tissue injuries.
Medical intervention for neck injuries might include anti-inflammatories, injections, muscle relaxants, or epidural spinal injections, all dependent on the extent of injury and your particular treatment plan. Finally, home care is also a part of the healing process. These usually include rest, ice packs, and limited activity.
What are discogenic injuries?
When a person’s spinal discs have suffered damage due to sudden trauma, such as that involved in an auto accident, intense pain can result. The nature of the injury must be properly diagnosed by skilled medical personnel using an MRI or tomography. Many people experience pain in the lower back as a result of the following conditions:
- Lumbar sprains. This condition occurs due to excessive force placed upon the back. The muscles, ligaments, or tendons in the back are stretched excessively as a result of the impact and trauma.
- Disk herniation. This injury is often extremely painful and occurs when the filling of a ruptured disc in the spine contacts the surrounding nerves
- Spinal stenosis. A car crash can cause this injury when a ruptured bone fragment or disk exhibits pressure on the spinal cord or nerves during impact. With this condition, the bone channel where the spinal cord and nerves are housed narrows.
- Degenerative spinal disorders. This covers a number of different injuries of the spine, including bone spurs, herniated discs, bulging discs, pinched nerves, and spinal stenosis.
Treatment solutions for discogenic back pain often involve physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication. Other medical options available, if relief is not found by these methods, include epidural corticosteroids or surgery.
What are facet joint Injuries?
Facet joints help ensure proper lubrication of the joints of the spine and enable its free and unhindered mobility. These joints help hold up the body’s weight, enabling the spine to move easily while also restricting it from excessive movement in any one direction. Symptoms that indicate facet joint injuries include neck and back pain as well as muscle spasms. Medical professionals can utilize standard x-rays to diagnose facet joint injuries. They can also use a facet joint block with a die that provides further information about the nature and extent of the injury. A CT scan may also pinpoint the diagnosis and rule out other issues.
Have you suffered a neck or back injury in a car accident?
If you have suffered a neck or back injury in a car crash caused by another party, be sure to get in touch with our Baltimore car crash lawyers at Plaxen & Adler, P.A. As a premier car accident law firm serving Maryland, we can help you secure the financial recovery you deserve. To set up a free case evaluation, call us today at 410.988.4449 or send us a message through our contact form.