There’s never any doubt when you need emergency medical care after a car injury. But the most common injuries often begin as an ache or cause delayed symptoms, lulling you into believing you’re in good shape despite having a neck or back injury.
The skilled physicians at Alliance Spine Associates specialize in diagnosing spine problems after an auto accident and providing treatments that minimize your pain and may help prevent complications. Here, they explain four of the most common auto accident injuries.
Whiplash occurs when your neck (cervical spine) quickly snaps back-and-forth or side-to-side. This happens when the force of a collision makes your head hyperextend in one direction and then immediately reverse and move in the opposite direction.
The movement forces the ligaments and muscles to stretch too far and/or tear. The tissues also become inflamed, and you may have muscle spasms. A severe whiplash injury could also damage the cervical nerves, vertebrae, and discs.
Whiplash symptoms include:
When treating whiplash, we begin with the most appropriate conservative therapies. Your treatment may include anti-inflammatory medications, rest, gentle stretching, and physical therapy.
If your pain doesn’t improve, we may recommend interventional treatments, such as:
If you have damage to the vertebrae or discs, you may need minimally invasive spine surgery to repair the underlying condition.
After whiplash, lower back pain is one of the most common problems after an auto accident. When you’re in an accident, the impact sends your body in motion. That movement doesn’t stop until you hit something, like an airbag, seat belt, steering wheel, or window.
The movement causes lower back injuries similar to a whiplash. You may end up with pulled muscles or ligaments, pinched nerves, herniated discs, or a slipped vertebrae.
In addition to back pain, a pinched nerve may cause numbness, tingling, or burning in your legs. Your treatment for low back pain is essentially the same as a whiplash injury.
Auto accidents cause nearly half of all spine fractures. The primary symptoms of a traumatic spine fracture are pain and limited mobility.
Stable spine fractures (the vertebrae are still in alignment) without nerve damage are usually treated with bracing to immobilize the spine while it heals.
If your spine is unstable or the nerves are damaged, you need surgery to put the vertebrae back in place and restore spinal stability. Surgery typically requires a spinal fusion with the placement of hardware like rods, plates, and pedicle screws.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) range from mild (a concussion) to severe. We screen for concussions because they often occur during a whiplash when the sudden head movement makes your brain hit against the skull.
Even though concussions are considered to be mild injuries, the trauma can bruise your brain, damage the nerves, and affect brain function.
Moderate to severe TBIs may cause a skull fracture and serious or life-threatening injuries, including brain bruising, bleeding in and around the brain, damaged nerves, and a fluid buildup (hydrocephalus).
Symptoms of a TBI include:
People seldom lose consciousness due to a concussion. By comparison, moderate to severe brain injuries typically cause loss of consciousness.
Rest is the main treatment for a concussion. You need to limit or avoid physical and mental activities to give your brain time to heal and prevent a second concussion. Treatment for moderate to severe TBIs requires hospitalization.
It’s important to schedule a consultation and have a thorough neck, back, and head evaluation as soon as possible — whether or not you have symptoms.
Whiplash, back injuries, and concussions may not cause symptoms for a few hours or days. We can identify any problems and start treatment that may lessen or prevent pain and get you on the road to recovery sooner.
We have extensive experience treating neck and back injuries caused by auto accidents. Call Alliance Spine Associates or request an appointment online right after an auto accident.