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What to Know About Car Accident Neck and Back Injuries

UPDATED: October 28, 2013

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Neck and back injuries are common after a car accident, and can vary significantly in severity and duration. If you have been in an accident and suspect a neck or back injury is the result, you should seek immediate medical attention and consult an attorney for assistance with insurance claims or legal action.  Car accident neck and back injuries can serious and occasionally difficult to detect, and working with experienced medical and legal professionals will help you understand your injury and be fairly compensated.

Common Car Accident Spine Injuries

The risk of back or spinal injuries in a car accident is due to strong and sudden movements putting pressure on back bones that do not have a lot of muscle support.  In moderate to severe car accidents, vertebrae in the back and the spinal cord are at risk of breaking or severing leading to lasting injuries.  Back and spinal injuries have the following symptoms that you should be aware of after a car accident:

  • Pain:  Back and spinal injuries can cause pain, even in other areas of the body such as the neck or arms.  Serious injuries to the back will result in severe pain that should require professional treatment.
  • Numbness / loss of feeling:  An injury to the spinal cord can result in numbness in limbs and extremities.  Even if you are not in significant pain, be aware of numbness in other parts of your body as it can indicate a spinal injury.
  • Loss of muscle control:  Nearly every muscle in the body requires a healthy spinal cord to function correctly, so if the spine is injured in a car accident muscles may relax or contract involuntarily.

Any impact to the back in a car accident should raise concerns about an injury to the back bones or spinal cord, and if you do not immediately go to the hospital you should be wary of these symptoms and other irregularities.   Back and spine injuries can have serious and long term effects if untreated, so consult a doctor if you are in pain or experiencing numbness.

Common Car Accident Neck Injuries

There are some common car accident neck injuries that you should be aware of:

  • Pinched Nerve:  Nerves running from the spinal cord down to the arm can be irritated or pinched by a bone spur or a ruptured disc in the neck.  If a nerve is pinched and not working properly, the result can be pain or numbness in the parts of the body where the nerve goes – typically the skin and muscles on the arms and hands.
  • Neck Sprain:  Ligaments and tissue that connect bones in the neck can be stretched or torn in the impact of a car accident, causing pain and stiffness. 
  • Neck Strain:  Similar to a neck sprain, a neck strain occurs if the muscles are stretched, pulled, or torn as a result of a car accident.  Neck strains also result in pain and stiffness.  Neck sprains and neck strains are commonly lumped together as whiplash injuries.
  • Herniated Disc:  Discs are between each bone in the spine and serve as a shock absorber that allows for spinal flexibility. If the motion of the neck during a car accident puts too much pressure on a disc, you could suffer from a herniated disc – sometimes called a ruptured or slipped disc.  The pressure on the spine as a result of a herniated disc can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the neck and back area.

It is not always obvious that you have injured your neck in a car accident due to adrenaline and endorphins that can mask or downgrade the pain you feel.  If you have been in a car accident, keep an eye out for the following symptoms that could indicate a neck injury:

  • Pain in the neck area
  • Headaches
  • Pain in shoulders, arms, and hands
  • Numbness or weakness in arms and hands
  • Muscle spasms in the neck
  • Reduced range of motion in the neck

If you experience any symptoms of neck or back injuries after a car accident, you should seek medical attention.  Should you need to pursue an insurance or legal claim, document your medical treatment and diagnosis so that you will have a clear picture of your claim’s value.  Consult an experienced attorney for assistance in receiving compensation for car accident neck and spine injuries.

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