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Common Spine Injuries From Car Accidents

spine x-ray

Soreness is a common sensation to experience following a car accident. But don’t mistake what you’re feeling for routine aches and pains—if your back is hurting, you’re experiencing any loss of movement, or suffering respiratory distress, you may have suffered a back injury.

Signs and symptoms of common spine injuries from car accidents are not always readily apparent. Let’s review some of the back injuries that can occur after a crash and signs that you may have been injured.

Never hesitate to seek medical care after a crash. Our auto accident lawyers in Albuquerque have the experience and background needed to help you recover compensation for your crash-related injuries.

Key Takeaways:

  • Back pain (whether mild or severe) is one of the most common symptoms of a serious spinal injury.
  • You can still be injured even if you don’t feel any pain—numbness, tingling, and difficulty moving are all signs of a serious back injury.
  • Compensation for injuries can help accident victims focus on their recovery.

Top 6 Types of the Most Common Spinal Injuries Caused by Car Accidents

A spine injury is always a serious medical event. Delaying care or engaging in strenuous activity can worsen your condition.

If you’ve been injured in an accident and are experiencing pain in your back or near your spine, go to the emergency room or call 911 right away. You could be suffering from one of the following common spinal injuries.

1. Whiplash

Whiplash can happen when the cervical spine (the area of the spine found in the neck) is forcefully whipped back and forth, much like the movement of a cracking whip. This type of spine injury is most commonly associated with rear-end accidents, although it is possible to develop whiplash in almost any type of motor vehicle collision.

Whiplash can cause pain or stiffness in the neck, loss of range of motion, tenderness, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and more. If left untreated, pain can become chronic.

2. Spinal Cord Injuries

The spinal cord is a long band of nerves located inside the spinal column that connects your brain to your lower back. It is responsible for delivering motor commands from your brain to other parts of your body. Any damage to the spinal cord can be permanent and life-altering.

A spinal cord injury (SCI) can be categorized as either incomplete or complete depending on the level of sensation that has been lost, and is considered among the most dangerous types of spine injuries.

Even with treatment, SCI patients typically suffer lifelong damage that may affect every aspect of their life.

3. Ruptured and Herniated Discs

The spinal column is made up of 25 discs:

  • 7 cervical (neck)
  • 12 thoracic (upper and middle part of the back)
  • 5 lumbar (lower back)
  • 1 sacral (above the tailbone)

Our spinal discs are cartilaginous joints that allow for spinal mobility, act as shock absorbers, and provide necessary support and structure to vertebrae. Also called slipped discs, a ruptured or herniated disc occurs when the soft interior of the disc pushes or slips through a crack in its casing. This can cause irritation to nearby nerves.

4. Spinal Fractures

Sometimes referred to as a broken back, a spinal fracture involves the fracturing or dislocating of the backbone. A fracture can happen anywhere along the spine, from the neck to the tailbone.

Recovery time can vary for spinal fractures, and may take anywhere from three months to several years. And for some victims, full recovery is never possible. Chronic and radiating back pain, hip pain, breathing problems, digestive issues, bone shrinkage, and other side effects of fractured vertebrae can follow people for a lifetime.

5. Spinal Stenosis

Your spinal cord is contained within the protective space of the spinal canal. In an accident, any force or trauma that occurs to your back or spine could result in a serious condition called spinal stenosis.

Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of space within the spinal canal. This narrowing restricts the nerves branching off the spinal cord, which can cause them to become pinched or irritated. Serious or severe pain is common with this type of condition.

6. Spondylolisthesis

The human spine is made up of multiple bones called vertebrae. If just one of these bones slips out of place, it can cause back and leg pain ranging between mild and severe. This is called spondylolisthesis.

When spondylolisthesis is caused by a car accident, the resulting pain can have an intense and long-lasting impact on your life. If you’ve been told by a doctor that you had a bone or vertebra slip out of place after a car accident, you may be owed compensation for your injury, medical bills, and more.

What Kind of Damage Can Spinal Injuries Cause?

Spinal injuries can cause significant, chronic, and even lifelong pain. But a spine injury can also cause damage far beyond pain—it’s all the related medical problems and conditions that develop as a result of the initial trauma.

  • Paralysis (partial or complete)
  • Nerve damage
  • Blood pressure problems
  • Bladder or bowel dysfunction
  • Respiratory problems
  • Circulatory problems
  • Blood clots
  • Blood pressure instability
  • Pressure ulcers (bedsores)
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Autonomic dysreflexia
  • Decreased sensation or range of movement in legs and arms
  • Neurogenic shock
  • Inability to regulate body temperature

For many accident victims, life after a spine injury will look very different than before. A spinal injury may limit their ability to work, engage in hobbies, exercise, spend time with loved ones, or to even care for themselves. In particularly severe cases, loved ones may have to step into the role of caregiver.

By one driver’s negligent or reckless actions, another person’s entire life can be completely upended.

Signs of a Spine Injury After a Crash

Spinal injuries can cause severe pain and limited range of motion in the immediate aftermath of an impact. But in some situations, pain and other indicators of injury may develop over minutes, hours, or even days. Any excessive movement or activity can worsen a spine injury beyond its original impact.

After an accident, you should immediately evaluate yourself and everyone else for signs of injury. Call 911 right away if anyone appears to be hurt. Keep an eye out for the following signs of back injuries:

  • Extreme pain anywhere in the back, neck, or head
  • Lower back pain that radiates into the buttocks or legs
  • Inability to move any part of the body
  • Loss of balance
  • Immediate loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Numbness or tingling anywhere in the body
  • Stiffness

Never attempt to move someone who appears to be suffering from a spine injury, and don’t allow yourself to be moved if you believe you’ve suffered a back injury. This can cause additional harm or worsening of the original injury. Instead, wait for emergency responders to arrive.

What if I Suffered a Spine or Back Injury in a Car Accident?

The physical force of a motor vehicle collision can have a devastating impact on a person’s body. Factors such as the speed of both vehicles, angle of the impact, and seat belt use can all influence how severe the crash is.

Keep in mind that you can suffer a life-altering injury no matter how severe an accident is. Even a minor collision can cause serious spinal injuries.

If you suffered a spine or back injury in a car accident and you weren’t at fault for the collision, you may be owed compensation for everything that you’ve been through. This could include a personal injury settlement or award for:

  • Related medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • And more

For car accident victims, recovering compensation is one of the most effective ways to alleviate financial concerns. This allows them to focus on their recovery, and not on how they’re going to pay their bills.

Find Out Your Legal Options During a Free Consultation

You’ve been injured and you need help. At Buckingham & Vega Law Firm, we don’t believe that learning about that help should ever come with a price tag.

If you’ve suffered a spinal injury in a car accident, please contact our Albuquerque law office for a completely free case evaluation.

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