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Navigating Neck and Lower Back Pain After an Accident

Neck and lower back injuries from car accidents can be excruciating. No reliable estimates exist for the number of neck and back injuries occurring in crashes. However, U.S. hospitals see about 869,000 accident-related cervical spine injuries annually. The cervical spine is located in the neck, and cervical vertebrae are the source of neck pain.

Sometimes, you immediately experience back or neck pain after a car accident. However, often the pain isn’t apparent until days or weeks after the accident. Sometimes an accident victim interprets the symptoms of a back or neck injury as something else. Immediate medical attention for back and neck injuries is critical. If another driver caused the car accident, you’d also want to talk with an attorney to ensure you receive compensation for your pain and medical treatment.

What causes back and neck pain after car accidents?

The force of a car accident is significant and can cause several injuries that result in back or neck pain.

Lumbar Spine Injuries

The lumbar spine refers to the vertebrae in the lower back, known as the lumbar region. Lumbar sprains are common, especially after a rear-end car crash. The excessive force of the car accident damages the muscles and other soft tissue in the back, causing pain. Other lumbar spine injuries might include spinal cord fractures or sciatica. Sciatica can cause chronic pain. A serious spinal cord injury can cause loss of mobility, damage to spinal nerves, and paralysis.

Clinicians use MRIs and X-rays to diagnose these injuries, which sometimes cause severe pain. Treatment can range from physical therapy to surgery.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis narrows the channel that houses the spinal cord. When the channel narrows, the pressure forces the vertebrae outward and pinches the nerves. The injury usually affects the cervical or lumbar spine and occurs when a back injury goes untreated. The longer you wait to treat it, the more debilitating it becomes.

The symptoms of spinal stenosis include:

  • Tingling in the arms, fingers, legs, or toes
  • Stiff neck or back
  • Back pain
  • Difficulty lifting light objects
  • Sore hips
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

Clinicians use imaging to diagnose these car accident injuries.

Disc Herniation

A herniated disc is also a common car accident injury. Herniated discs can occur anywhere along the spinal cord. Spinal disc injuries occur because the force of the accident compresses the vertebral discs or knocks them out of alignment. Treatment for a herniated disc ranges from surgery to physical therapy, depending on the seriousness of the injury. Doctors diagnose herniated discs through X-rays, MRIs, and an examination. The condition can lead to other degenerative spinal disorders if spinal disc issues go undiagnosed.

Facet Joint Injuries

Facet joints are connective tissues linking the bones in the spine. You’ll experience immediate pain from a facet joint injury. Facet joint pain can become debilitating if not treated and can lead to the development of facet joint syndrome. Facet joint syndrome is a degenerative, arthritis-like condition caused by joint changes between the spine bones. Those with facet joint syndrome experience intense pain. Clinicians diagnose these injuries with evaluation and imaging.


Whiplash is another common car accident injury. Generally, whiplash is neck pain caused by the neck being thrust forward or backward violently in a car accident. The thrusting can damage bones, ligaments, and tendons of the spine. Whiplash results in pain in the neck, lower back, or middle back.

Neck Fractures

The neck has several bones. Severe neck pain can signal that one of these bones is broken.

Pinched Nerve

A pinched nerve can occur in the back or neck. Pinched nerves occur when surrounding tissues apply too much pressure to the nerve. The pressure can cause tingling, pain, numbness, and weakness. Many people recover from a pinched nerve after resting and taking over the counter medications; however, medical treatment is essential in diagnosing the issue. Some pinched nerves cause chronic neck pain and will require surgery.

How long does back pain last?

Back pain or neck pain can last anywhere from just a few hours to weeks, months, or even years. Some car accident victims experience neck or back pain for the rest of their lives. Seeking medical treatment immediately when you experience pain or warning signs is critical. Chemicals in the body react to trauma and may prevent you from feeling the pain right away. Delayed pain is common.

What are the warning signs of back and neck injuries?

Warning signs of a back or neck injury include:

  • Headaches. Chronic headaches can be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening back or neck injury.
  • Muscle spasms. Muscle spasms in the neck can be a sign of a muscle sprain or tear.
  • Muscle pain in the neck. The pain after a car accident may be dull or sharp; however, you should never ignore any neck pain.
  • Dull, tingly, or sharp pain in the back. You should seek medical treatment any back pain after an auto accident, even if the pain doesn’t occur for several days afterward.

What treatment options exist for neck and back injuries?

Depending on the location and severity of the injury, several treatment modalities may be available, including

  • Surgery, both emergency and follow-up surgery, sometimes months or years after the car accident
  • Acupuncture, which relieves chronic pain
  • Injections that alleviate inflammation and pain
  • Medication
  • Massage therapy
  • Traction to mobilize and align the spine

If a car accident damages the spinal cord, doctors cannot reverse the damage. Treatment, however, can prevent further spine injury and allow the patient to live better with the damage. Assistive devices, such as wheelchairs and adaptive communications devices, can help. Learning techniques for bladder control and pain management also can help. Electrical stimulation can restore some function in some cases. The medical bills for spinal cord injuries can be quite significant.

What are my rights as a neck and back pain car accident victim?

If you’ve suffered injuries to your cervical, lumbar, or thoracic spine (middle back) through the fault of others, you are entitled to receive compensation. Compensation can include

  • Payment of medical expenses
  • Vehicle repair or replacement
  • Replacement wages if you cannot work because of back pain or neck injuries. The income could also cover the income you will lose in the future if you cannot perform the same job you had before the accident.
  • Cash compensation for pain and suffering.

To protect your right to compensation, you should talk with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. Insurance companies may offer settlements, but they are often much lower than you deserve. While the human can heal itself, some neck and lower back injuries will never heal, leaving you with debilitating pain or paralysis. You cannot foresee what you’ll require to treat the injury, so settling without consulting an attorney is unwise.

1-800-Ask-Gary is a referral service. The hotline helps you find experienced doctors and lawyers after car accidents. 1-800Ask-Gary can make referrals for back and neck injury victims in Florida, Minnesota, and New Mexico. All car accident lawyers offer a free consultation. Contact 1-800Ask-Gary right away to receive the compensation you deserve.