One of the most common symptoms for the victim of a car accident is neck or back pain. Often referred to as whiplash, many people ignore it and assume it will go away. However, this kind of pain could be an indicator of more serious injuries.
Neck and back pain or whiplash may not appear until several days after the accident occurred. You may feel fine and assume there are no injuries. You may even refuse to get checked out by emergency medical personnel on the scene because you don’t have any symptoms. However, pain in your neck and back may not start right away. You should still take the opportunity to have a professional check you over for any potential injuries.
Even after you notice the stiffness or pain, you may assume it will go away. You take a couple of pain pills and go on about your day. What you don’t realize is this pain could indicate a more serious injury. If not treated right away, damage from the injury could become permanent and your pain may be chronic.
Most whiplash injuries occur in a rear-end collision because of the rapid force which moves you forward and backward. However, neck and back pain can occur in any type of collision when the body is thrown around.
A car accident can not only damage the muscles along these areas, but also the joints and connective tissue as well as the nervous system. It can also impact your vertebrae and spinal cord and even tear the fibers inside your spinal discs. Because so much is involved, it can be difficult to diagnose the exact cause of the pain.
One of the most common diagnoses of neck pain after a car accident is facet joint pain. This pain comes from the back of the neck, usually on one side and is tender. It is diagnosed by a physical exam, but it doesn’t show up on x-rays or other diagnostic tests.
Injury to one of the discs is another common cause of the pain you may experience in the neck. Fibers in the disc may be torn, which could result in a herniated disc or degeneration. The nerves may become compressed, which could lead to pain along the arm and around the back and shoulders.
Torn or stained muscles and ligaments may also be reflected through pain in the neck or back. In this case, they will usually heal over time, but you may experience limited mobility until they are completely recovered.
Back pain may also be an indicator of a fractured spine. These are often small fractures that will heal on their own. However, it is important to see a doctor for treatment since a fracture is more susceptible to further damage.
While most people recover in a few months, others may suffer long-term or chronic pain. Early treatment can improve the outcome for people with pain in their necks and backs. Anti-inflammatory drugs may be used to reduce pain along with muscle relaxers. Epidural spinal injections may be necessary for more serious pain or depending on the location.
Sometime chiropractic care may be used to restore movement. Physical therapy is often helpful to allow a person to regain their range of motion. You may be stretching exercises and massages to help stimulate healing and to regain normal movement.
In the most serious cases, surgery may be necessary to repair herniated or compressed discs. It may also be considered in some fractures.
To improve your chances of making a full recovery and to receive the full amount of compensation you are entitled to after a car accident, you should seek medical attention right away even if you think you are fine. Furthermore, you should follow up if you notice pain or soreness begin in the next few days following a car crash. Because some of these injuries are difficult to diagnose and prove, you want to do your part to make it easier to recover from your injury and to ensure you don't settle your claim for less than what it is worth.