Car accidents are traumatic and can leave lasting mental, physical and emotional scars, making you afraid of going behind the wheel again. According to the Association for Safe International, forty-six thousand people die in car crashes annually. More than 4 million Americans are injured severely in a collision and require immediate medical attention. These facts and figures suggest that car accidents are more common than you think. Resulting in various bodily injuries especially Back Injuries. Any collision can cause a heavy blow to your back.
So, what kind of back injuries can you get? Here’s what you need to know:
What Happens During An Accident?
During a collision, your vehicle abruptly stops while you are still in motion, and the tremendous force engulfs your body. As a result, you may get fractures, sprains, and bruises, especially in your neck, spine, and back regions. You may also get severe lacerations and open wounds from the broken glass and shattered car interior.
Types of Back Injuries Following a Car Accident:
Once your back injuries, you may experience intense pain, immense inflammation, and difficulty moving. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, there are 17,000 non-fatal spinal cord injuries every year in the US due to car accidents. Details of which are as follows:
Whiplash is a rapid jerk that impacts your head and neck after an accident. The forceful movement can strain and damage your muscles and tendons, which can stretch to your cervical spine.
If you feel stiffness, have immense pain in your upper body and find it difficult to move your neck, you need to get this condition treated. While doctors may prescribe over-the-counter medication for a gradual recovery, a whiplash chiropractor can provide instant relief by adjusting the area.
A chiropractor can manipulate your spine and identify the misaligned regions to pop them back into place. These experts apply gentle pressure and move your affected zones without causing additional pain. So if you have any bulges, inflammation, or restriction in movement, they can easily get remedied.
Your vertebrae are susceptible to a fracture after an accident. The shock of the collision can put pressure on your spine, leading to minor cracks in the bone, known as compression fractures. These can cause your vertebrae to collapse, making them shorter and causing small pieces of bone to press on your spinal cord, reducing its oxygen and blood supply.
Alternatively, you may undergo a burst fracture in which the primary bone of your spine breaks in multiple directions. Back injuries may put immense pressure on your nerves, and it causes your spine to bend, which requires immediate surgery. Burst fractures account for almost 14% of all spinal injuries.
3. Herniated Disc:
You may feel numbness and tingling because of a hernia. A herniated disc occurs when the rubbery cushions between your bones absorb pressure. But when the impact is too severe, it can cause the discs in your back to shift and cause the inner part of your spinal disc to push through the outer ring, resulting in a bulge.
Generally, if your case is manageable, you may get medication and steroids injected into your disc to treat the protrusion. However, when your symptoms don’t improve, you may get wheeled in for surgery.
4. Injuries To The Spinal Cord:
You can sustain numerous spinal cord injuries, including lacerations, bruises, and damage to your nerve. The pressure and impact of a collision can directly hit your spine, causing you to become immobile. If your nerves get damaged, you can get paralyzed from the waist down and have a minimal window for recovery.
A doctor must first examine if you have a complete loss of sensations and motor functions or an incomplete loss of sensory function, which means you can still feel and move from the waist down. But if you are rapidly losing control over your legs or bowel movement and can’t feel your limbs, don’t move and let the paramedics rush you into the ER.
5. Lumbar Discogenic Pain:
The discs in your back are composed of two parts. The first is the outer ring-like structure that contains nerve endings, and the second is the gel-like interior void of nerves. Discogenic pain occurs when the nerve receptors in the outer ring get damaged, causing severe inflammation in your lower back.
If the disc tears or cracks, you may develop internal pain in your spine. The treatment for this condition involves epidural and facet injections.
The facet joint is between your spinal bones and has various nerve roots which run through it, extending to your arms and legs. You may even receive intradiscal therapy, a minimally invasive surgery that applies heat to the outer ring with a catheter and a temperature-controlled thermal resistive heating coil.
How Are Back Injuries Diagnosed?
When you get rushed into the hospital following a car accident, a doctor will carry out a complete examination of your body. This exam includes moving your limbs, feeling your bones, and checking for sensation and reflexes. Depending on your condition, you may also need CT scans, MRI, X-rays, and a discography to pinpoint the problems in your disk and measure how fast your nerve signals reach your brain.
How Do Spinal Injuries Get Treated?
Once your condition is diagnosed and the doctor rules out any life-threatening diseases, your treatment starts. You may receive nerve blockers and ice compressions and be told to rest as much as possible for optimal recovery. Generally, most back pain starts subsiding within six weeks for most accident patients. However, if you have a severe wound, it may take longer and require more follow-ups with your primary caregiver. Here is how a doctor may treat you:
You may have to take over-the-counter pills such as Tylenol, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen and naproxen. NSAIDs take care of any inflammation, swelling, and redness you may be experiencing.
They help reduce your fever and relieve muscle aches, stiffness, and pain. However, if you are hospitalized, you may need prescription medication like corticosteroids, opioids, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and prescription NSAIDs like Celecoxib and Diclofenac.
Lidocaine patches are used to treat nerve pain in areas susceptible to touch. Corticosteroids are injected into your back and joints to reduce inflammation and pain. These provide temporary relief and instant relaxation.
2. Physical Therapy:
An accident can leave you inactive and confined to your bed for a long time. The longer you stay in bed, your muscles weaken, and you develop scar tissue. Physical therapy helps you regain control over your limbs and muscles. The therapist will massage the impacted tissue, encourage you to walk to stimulate nerve signals, and test your range of motions to increase your flexibility.
These sessions will help you improve your balance, build strength, and strengthen your core muscles. Once your spine and back heal, allowing you to move with no pain, you can keep up your pace by doing easy exercises at home.
3. Chiropractic Adjustments:
Sometimes, you may need to see a chiropractor to get treated. These professionals diagnose and correct biomechanical disturbances in your body. So if you have inflammation, tension, pain, numbness, or muscle spasms, these experts can help you out. A chiropractor uses multiple techniques to address your situation.
First, they evaluate your damage and target the injured area. Once a chiropractor knows your source of pain, they may manually manipulate and adjust your spine by moving, massaging, and putting light pressure on your spine and joints. You may also receive trigger point therapy, myofascial release, and a massage with a gun to reduce tension and soreness.
If you have fractures, certain hernias, and spinal cord injuries, you may need surgery, such as a spinal cord fusion. In some instances, you may also get a Spinal Cord stimulation which involves implanting a small device like a pacemaker to interrupt pain signals going to your brain.
The annual cost for treating spinal cord injuries is about $15,000 to $30,000. At the same time, the lifetime cost of these back injuries can range from $500,000 to $3 million, which includes using medication and getting frequent therapies and adjustments.
Accidents are an unpredictable and unfortunate reality of life. These can severely impact you, including leaving you with lifelong back injuries. The area that is most heavily impacted by a collision is your back. This region accounts for more than 39% of back injuries from vehicle accidents. Several conditions may erupt because of the force you absorb, including fractures, hernia, spinal cord injuries, and discogenic pain.
The treatment you receive depends on the severity of your condition, including painkillers, surgery, and chiropractic adjustments. The treatment for each symptom gets prescribed after a thorough examination of your body with the help of an X-ray, MRI, and CT scan. So whenever you have an accident, never delay and get help immediately.