Of all body parts injured from a car accident, injuries to the back have to be the most common. As discussed in our post about Rear-End Collisions, carmakers build their vehicles to absorb impacts, but unfortunately, our bodies are not made the same way, and as such, we can sustain injuries even when our car looks fine. This post explores back injuries as a result of a car accident.
When discussing the back, we are talking about your spine in particular. Doctors separate your spine into two main areas: Thoracic Spine and Lumbar Spine. Your Cervical Spine would be your neck, which we discuss in a separate article. We commonly refer to the Thoracic Spine as the mid-to-upper back and the Lumbar Spine as the low back. Though injuries can occur in both of these areas, low back injuries occur with more frequency and severity.
In regards to injuries that can occur, we most frequently see sprains/strains to the ligaments and tendons surrounding the spine. Insurance companies frequently refer to these injuries as “whiplash” or “soft tissue.” They use these terms as a means of devaluing your car accident case because diagnostic tests (MRIs, X-Rays, and CT Scans) may not be able to show these injuries, and therefore, they call these injuries subjective. Thus, we make certain to use the terms sprain or strain when discussing injuries to the spine. These injuries are no different than a professional athlete spraining his/her ankle or knee. The injury can cause significant pain but can be difficult to locate using diagnostic tests. Still, the injury is objective, not subjective, and the injury can keep the athlete out of action for many weeks, which explains why you still need medical treatment for “whiplash.”
Along those same lines, most doctors and chiropractors can treat your sprains and strains through conservative means. By conservative care, we mean through therapeutic exercises, massages, manipulations, Electric Stimulation Machines, Ultrasound Therapy, Dry Needling, Trigger Point Injections, and various other means. Additionally, most of this treatment occurs with Physical Therapy facilities or Chiropractic facilities. If you do not have any familiarity with either type, then contact an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible; he or she should be able to help coordinate treatment for you. Most clients manage to recover from their injuries within a span of 8-12 weeks (presuming that there are no other injuries or prior conditions that would impede recovery).
More serious injuries to your spine occur to the discs in your spine. A disc acts as a cushion or shock absorber in between the vertebrae in your spine. However, a car accident can affect these discs causing bulges or herniations, which occur most frequently in the Lumbar Spine. Common symptoms include radiating/shooting pains into your hip(s) and/or down into your leg(s), burning pains, numbness/tingling in your legs, feet, and/or toes, and spasms in your low back. The most reliable source of diagnosing such injuries are MRIs. X-Rays do not have the capability to detect such an injury and CT Scans do not provide a clear enough picture of the spine. These injuries usually are permanent though medical treatment can help manage your symptoms.
Treatment for herniations varies depending on your age and overall health. Some people can still manage their pain and symptoms with conservative care mentioned above (i.e. chiropractic and therapeutic care). However, often times affected individuals require more invasive care, and generally require orthopedic doctors to manage their care. More invasive care may consist of pain medications, Steroid Injections, Epidural Injections, Radiofrequency Ablations, and surgery. Obviously, surgery would be a treatment plan of last resort but certainly is possible if the accident has caused structural damage to your spine.
Despite the frequency from which back injuries occur in car accidents, these cases can be difficult when dealing with the insurance company. Many people have experienced back pain prior to this collision, and as such, the insurance company will want to use this preexisting pain against you claiming that your back was already injured and that the accident did not cause your pain and suffering. Likewise, many people may not experience symptoms in their back until days or weeks after the collision since these injuries can often mask themselves. As such, the insurance will use this gap in medical care to argue that the car accident did not cause your injury but some other intervening act did instead.
As such, you must be aware of any and all symptoms and sensations you experience not just immediately following the car accident but in the days and weeks that follow. You cannot ignore any minor symptom as that may be your body alerting you to something more serious. Likewise, this only emphasizes the importance of receiving medical treatment soon after a collision in order to allow a doctor the opportunity to uncover any possible hidden injuries.
Back injuries can cause long lasting pain and suffering and costly medical bills that could last for months and even years. Protect yourself by receiving medical treatment as soon as possible following a collision and by seeking the advice of an experienced car accident attorney.
Here at The Larrison Law Firm, we are happy to provide a free consultation and answer any further questions in the regards. Reach out to us today at (770) 554-8100.
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