Back pain is one of the most common consequences of a car accident. It can last a few weeks, a few months, or a lifetime. Here are some things you should know about if you begin to feel back pain after a car accident.
Potential Causes of Back Pain
Spinal injuries are a potential source of back pain. A severed spinal cord will lead to paralysis, but less serious injuries are nevertheless painful.
The spine is made up of 33 vertebrae. The shape of each vertebra suggests a pair of wings. When the tip of either wing is fractured in an accident, vertebrae can slip out of place, resulting in a condition known as spondylolisthesis. The condition might be treated with pain medications and drugs that reduce inflammation, as well as physical therapy or chiropractic manipulation. Extreme cases may require surgical intervention.
Compression of the vertebrae in the neck and back often results from the shear forces produced by a rear-end accident. That compression can lead to painful nerve damage and a condition called cervical radiculopathy. Pain can be long-lasting and intermittent. Treatment usually consists of physical therapy and pain management, although patients sometimes wear a cervical collar for a few weeks to avoid worsening the injury.
Soft tissue injuries are the other primary cause of back pain following a car accident. Soft tissues include muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Nerves running through soft tissues transmit pain when soft tissues are torn or stretched. The nerves themselves may also be damaged, causing persistent pain.
Soft tissues in the upper, middle, and lower back can be injured in a car accident. Pain in the shoulders and hips might radiate into arms and legs. Accident victims often feel immediate pain and stiffness, although pain can also be delayed if tissues do not begin to swell until a day or two after the accident.
Soft tissue injuries are initially treated by resting and protecting the tissues from further injures. Accident victims often use ice packs and anti-inflammatory medications to relieve swelling. After a few days (or weeks if the injury is more serious), treatment consists of exercise, sometimes including physical therapy, to restore flexibility and build strength in the affected tissue.
Recovery time is difficult to predict. Recovery depends on the nature of the injury and the injury victim’s faithfulness in following a doctor’s advice. Even then, different people heal at different rates, even when they experience similar injuries. Age and the overall state of the victim’s health influence recovery times.
Minor injuries might heal in a couple of weeks, while moderate injuries might take several weeks or months to heal. More serious injuries can take a long time to improve. Some soft tissue injuries result in lingering or nagging pain that comes and goes. That condition can be long-term or permanent.
Dealing with Back Pain After a Car Accident
Even minor back pain after a car accident could be the sign of a serious injury. It is always wise to see a doctor as soon as you notice back pain.
A doctor will tell you what you need to do to hasten the recovery process, but seeing a doctor is also an important way to maximize the compensation you will receive when your car accident injury claim settles. If you put off seeing a doctor, the insurance claims adjuster will argue that you had no pain and that you later decided to fabricate an injury to defraud the insurance company. The more time that goes by between your accident and your first visit to the doctor, the more likely the claims adjuster will be to resist paying full (or any) compensation for your injury.
Following through on all recommended treatment is also important. Exercise and physical therapy can be time consuming and painful, but they help injury victims recover from back pain more quickly. If you stop going to physical therapy because you don’t want to face the pain or deal with the inconvenience, the claims adjuster will assume that you did not need additional treatment because your injury healed. Every time you fail to follow through on recommended treatment, you reduce the settlement value of your case.
One of the most important things you can do after hurting your back in a car accident is to get advice from a personal injury attorney. Your attorney can tell you about the important steps you should take to maximize the compensation you receive for your injuries. Your lawyer can also take on the burden of dealing with the claims adjuster, freeing you to concentrate on the things you need to do to recover.