Back Pain After a Car Accident? 7 Steps to Recovery
More than 2.5 million serious injuries occur from car accidents every year, and the most common of those injuries involve the back. The human body, especially the spine, is simply not made to withstand the massive forces of speeding steel colliding so often involved in serious car accidents. If you or a loved one sustained a back injury in an accident, the seven steps below can help you make a great recovery.
1. Understanding the Anatomy of the Human Back
To better understand back injuries and what medical treatment might best help your specific back injury, it’s helpful to start by taking a closer look at the anatomy and parts of the back. In general, the back is made up of the vertebrae, the spinal cord, and two compartments of muscles. Within these areas include:
- Bones in the Vertebral Column: 7 cervical, 12 thoracics, 5 lumbar, 5 sacral (sacrum), 3-5 coccygeal (coccyx) vertebrae.
- Joints: Intervertebral discs, zygapophyseal joints
- Muscles: Extrinsic (Superficial) muscles & Intrinsic (Deep) muscles
- Nerves: Dorsal rami of the spinal nerves, intercostal nerves, cervical plexus, brachial plexus, accessory nerve (CN XI)
- Arteries and veins: Vertebral, ascending cervical, occipital, posterior intercostal, subcostal, lumbar, lateral sacral, deep cervical arteries, and veins.
The back’s primary function is to keep the torso erect, protect the spinal cord, help the body with respiration, and assist with the movement and posture of the limbs and torso.
2. Knowing the Most Common Back Injuries Caused by West Virginia Auto Accidents
The back is a very complex area of the body and it can sustain many different kinds of injuries. For that reason, if you are experiencing back pain after an accident, it’s important to consult with a doctor as soon as possible. The information below about the most common types of back injuries may help you better identify your back injury and explain your condition to your doctor:
a. Lumbar Sprains
A sprain in the lumbar region (lower back) stretches the ligaments, muscles, and tendons in the back excessively. This overstretching is known as a sprain (or strain). This usually occurs when excessive force exerts pressure on the back from things like a car crash, a workplace accident, a fall, or playing sports.
b. Disc Herniation
When a disc herniation occurs the disc that separates the vertebrae of your back protrudes through its outer encasing. The initial rupture often goes unnoticed, but when the protruding disc starts to come in contact with the nerves, debilitating pain can be experienced. Disc herniation is a more serious back injury.
c. Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is most often the result of aging, however, it’s traumatic accidents can also cause spinal stenosis. For example, if you are involved in a tractor-trailer accident, the force from that large of a truck could cause you to develop something like spinal stenosis. When this injury occurs the bone channel that holds the spinal nerves and cord begins to narrow. As this narrowing continues the channel begins to crush the spinal nerves and cord causing serious pain.
d. Degenerative Back and Spinal Disorders
Degenerative spinal disorders can be the result of several different causes and contributing factors. These symptoms and injuries cause the back to break down at an increased rate and led to unnecessary pain. Car crashes can aggravate degenerative back injuries. Some degenerative spinal disorders include:
- Spinal osteoarthritis
- Degenerative disc disease
- Degenerative scoliosis
- Foraminal stenosis
e. Spinal Fractures or Dislocation
A fracture or dislocation to the spine can lead to bone fragments pinching the spinal nerves and cord. This type of injury usually occurs from auto accidents, falls, gunshots, workplace accidents, or sports. The pain can vary depending on the severity of the injury. You may experience mild to moderate pain, difficulty walking, or paralysis.
3. Identifying the Symptoms Associated With Back Injuries
Each type of back injury has symptoms specific to its damage. However, there are some general symptoms that almost all victims of back injuries experience. Some of these symptoms include:
- Tenderness the area of your injury
- Pain that becomes more excessive when you move, cough, sneeze, or laugh
- Stiffness when moving
- Difficulty in maintaining a straight posture
- Spasms of the muscles in your back
- Bruising on the injured area
- Swelling of the injured area
- Pain that travels from the back to the legs
4. Common Medical Treatment for Back Pain in West Virginia
Understanding the different types of medical treatment for various back injuries can help you best decide what kind of doctor to see first. The most common methods for treating back pain as recommended by doctors usually involve physical therapy and possibly medication. While some may seem like clear cut methods, there is actually a lot of variety in each option. Read below to learn more about each option.
Physical therapy can be a great option for you if you are suffering from back pain related to a strain or sprain. Doctors usually recommend this to their patients because physical therapy is low risk to the patient, non-invasive, and doesn’t require medication. Further, if physical therapy works for you, the benefits will likely be long-lasting. Some exercises your physical therapist may do with you include:
- lumbar side bending
- transverse plane motion
- flexion-rotation mobilization
- dynamic lumbar stabilization exercises
- Piriformis Muscle Stretches
Medications can be an option to help alleviate the pain you’re experiencing due to your back injury. There are many different types of medications you can use, and you should always consult with your doctor to determine what medication will work best for you. Of course, as we know in West Virginia, narcotic pain medicine is very addictive and should be used with extreme-caution when necessary. Some types of medication your doctor may recommend include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin, Midol, naproxen sodium.
- Muscle Relaxants
- Analgesic medications: acetaminophen, aspirin, as well as prescription opioids such as oxycodone and morphine.
- Anticonvulsants: Typically used for treating seizures, this medication can be very effective in helping with radiculopathy which is a common lower back injury.
- Counter-irritants: Bengay, Icy Hot.
Surgery for a back injury is pretty uncommon, despite what many may believe. The most commonly performed back surgeries include:
- Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty
- Spinal laminectomy
- Discectomy or microdiscectomy
- Spinal fusion
- Artificial disc replacement
5. Alternative Treatment Options for Your Back Injury
Consulting with a medical professional about any injury is very important, especially when it involves your back. However, there are other methods of treating the pain that you can try outside of traditional medical care. Some of these options include:
It’s important to be cautious when trying to perform any activity with a back injury. However, depending on the extent of your injury some stretching can be beneficial in helping it heal. Some stretches you can try include:
- Knees to Chest: Lay flat on your stomach and pull your knees to your chest. Hold this position for about 15 seconds and release. Repeat as needed.
- Spinal Twist: To do this you need to lay flat on your back with your arms stretching out into a “T” position. Then, bend one knee and twist it in the direction of your straight leg while trying to keep your bent knee touching the floor.
- Superman Stretch: For this stretch, you’ll want to lay on your stomach, stretch your arms over your head, and lift your chest and legs off the floor at the same time.
Wear Proper Footwear
It can be hard to find a good pair of shoes, but when in doubt go for comfort over style. Wearing a supportive pair of shoes has many benefits like helping with your posture, increasing your stability, and alleviating your back pain. The longer you wear unsupportive shoes the more you increase the pressure on your lower spine which leads to back pain.
Applying ice to an injury is a long-practiced method that can help you see results. Ice helps control inflammation which causes pain in the injured area. However, it’s important to remember there are proper steps on how you should apply ice to any area of your body. Try using this method recommended by the American Physical Therapy Association:
- Fill a plastic bag with crushed ice.
- Place a towel around the area of your neck that has the pain.
- Put the homemade ice bag on the towel. Ice for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Take a 40-minute break.
Never sleep with an ice pack! Always wrap ice in a towel to protect your skin.
Applying heat to an injured area is another long-standing practice and it can have many benefits to injuries as well. Heat penetrates down into muscles and increases circulation. It’s important to remember there are proper steps you need to follow when doing heat therapy, for instance:
- When applying heat directly to an area never leave in on your skin for more than 20 minutes at a time.
- If you are not seeing results after a week or experience increased swelling stop the treatment immediately and consult with a medical professional.
Never sleep with a heat pack on! Always wrap heat in a towel to protect your skin.
Seeking treatment from a chiropractor can be a great option if you have sustained a back injury and some people have more relief from chiropractic care than physical therapy.
Chiropractors are trained in hands-on spinal manipulation and other alternative treatments. They can help:
- Improve mobility of your spine
- Restore your range of motion
- Reduce pain, soreness, and stiffness in your back
- Develop a specific treatment plan to increase your healing
Massage therapy is a very popular treatment method for people with various types of injuries. It can be helpful for back injuries as massage therapists use their hands or tools to rhythmically knead, rub, and stroke the back area. Its benefits often include:
- Relieving muscle tension, spasms, inflammation, fluid retention, aches, stiffness, and pain
- Improve circulation
- Increase range of motion and flexibility
- Increase tissue elasticity
If you’re thinking about massage therapy you may want to speak with your doctor as they may be able to recommend a licensed massage therapist.
Maintain Correct Posture
One simple way you can help alleviate your back pain is by correcting your posture. Leaving your back in an uncomfortable position for even just a short period of time can do damage. To maintain a comfortable position while sitting be sure to:
- Keep your feet planted on the floor
- Use a chair that provides lower back support.
- Avoid hunching forward
(Before trying any of these methods you should carefully evaluate your back injury as pushing yourself too far can make your injury worse.)
6. What Compensation May You Receive for Accident Related Injuries in West Virginia?
Injuries after an accident can cause you monetary, physical, and mental damages. You may be entitled to significant compensation for past and future:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages and benefits
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Lost earning capacity: a decrease in a person’s ability to earn income
- Loss of consortium: Loss of some of the benefits of a family relationship due to the accident or injury
- Property Damage
- Punitive Damages, when appropriate
7. Get a Free Consultation with A West Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one were injured because of another’s negligence, we invite you to call us for a Free Consultation with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers. There’s no risk and no fee unless we recover compensation for you. We here at West Law Firm have years of experience in recovering losses for our clients. We can help you get back to living your life and give you peace of mind knowing your claim is being handled by top-rated West Virginia injury lawyers.
Call us today toll-free at 1-877-943-9378 for a Free Consultation to get more details about your rights and options.
Brooks West is a personal injury lawyer, founder, and President of West Law Firm. He has been helping those wrongfully injured in West Virginia for almost two decades. The results and service he provides his clients have earned him membership in the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell. Brooks is most proud of the many 5-star reviews he has received from satisfied clients.