Back Pain After a Car Accident: Causes, Injury Types, & What to Do

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Car accident injuries to the back are often the result of the force of the crash. The most common injuries include:

  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Lumbar spine sprains and strains
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spinal cord herniation
  • Degenerative spinal disorders
  • Facet joint injuries
  • Whiplash

Dealing with the after-effects of a car accident injury can be a stressful ordeal. There are many factors to consider including insurance claims, filing lawsuits, and car repairs or replacement. This can all be made more difficult after suffering a severe injury.

Sometimes, because of the adrenalin associated with surviving a crash, you may not even know you’ve suffered a back injury until after the fact. If you find yourself with back pain after an auto accident, here is all the information you’ll need about understanding your injury and what to do about it.

Common Types of Back Injuries Caused by Car Accidents

Man holding hands to lower back to soothe pain.

If you feel any back pain after a car accident, it’s imperative to listen to your body and determine what may be causing the pain. Back pain, in particular, can be a severe indicator that several injuries may have taken place.

Even if your pain is not severe, it’s crucial not to put off medical care or lessen your traumatic experience. The following are some of the most common back injuries that can result from a car crash.

Discogenic Pain

Discogenic pain is a type of low back pain that arises from inflammation, damaged discs, and injuries of or adjacent to the spinal cord. If left untreated, discogenic pain can become a chronic, long-lasting disorder that can be debilitating.

Injuries to the Spinal Cord

Vehicle-related accidents are the number one cause of spinal injuries. Spinal injuries to the cervical (neck), thoracic (upper back), and lumbar (lower back) regions can include:

  • Bruising
  • Lacerations
  • Pressure damage

In some instances, spine damage can lead to nerve damage and paralysis. Vertebrae injuries are also serious and can cause nerve compression and misalignment that could, in turn, cause pain and long-lasting damage.

Lumbar Sprains and Strains

When your lumbar is sprained strained, your soft tissues can become swollen and inflamed resulting in low back pain and trouble moving. A lumbar sprain occurs when ligaments are torn. A strain occurs when the muscle itself is stretched or torn.

Lumbar damage can result from tension at impact as well as from the force the vehicle sustains in the accident. Lumbar strains and sprains can require medication for comfort during the healing process.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal where your nerves and spinal cord pass through. Although there can be many causes of spinal stenosis, car accident-related trauma can cause this condition to develop over time.

Symptoms of spinal stenosis can include pain, weakness, and tingling or numbness. Some people, however, experience no symptoms at all. For this reason, it’s essential to consult with a doctor after a vehicle-related accident whether or not you are experiencing any of the symptoms.

Disc Herniation after a Car Wreck

When the soft, fluid-filled cushions between your vertebrae become ruptured or leak, it is called a disc herniation. A herniated disc is another possible car accident-related spinal injury that can worsen over time.

A herniated disc can affect your spinal nerves. This may cause arm and leg pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling. Herniations caused by trauma, like in a car collision, can be serious and may require medical attention to prevent long-standing nerve damage and chronic pain.

Degenerative Spinal Disorders

It is not uncommon for victims in a car accident to develop degenerative spinal disorders. This is more likely to occur if the person did not immediately receive medical treatment. Without proper medical attention, a simple injury can turn into a larger problem, like degenerative disc disease which causes chronic pain and inflammation.

The spine’s shape can be altered in degenerative spinal disorders, causing the victim to experience sensory and even functional loss. Long-lasting symptoms may include pain and limited mobility.

Degenerative spinal disorders can require oral or injected pain management medication and may require surgery for correction in severe cases. The best way to diagnose this kind of injury is with an MRI or CT scan to accurately pinpoint the problem.

Facet Joint Injury

The joints connecting your vertebrae and each of their spinous processes are called facet joints. These can become worn down and injured with normal wear and tear and age, but in some instances, trauma can damage them as well.

Symptoms of a facet joint injury can vary based on the back area affected lumbar region. Facet joint injuries can result in pain, a decreased range of motion, and a hunched posture. Injuries to these joints in your neck can cause neck pain, headaches, and loss of mobility when turning your head. Doctors may use an injection dye during an X-ray to check for things like a facet joint block.

These injuries can be treated non-invasively with pain management and physical therapy to help rebuild the strength of the surrounding muscles and ligaments while the facet joints heal.

Whiplash and Other Neck Injuries

Whiplash is a type of neck injury. Neck injuries are common and serious injuries suffered in auto accidents. The car’s change in velocity can cause extreme back-and-forth forces that strain muscles and cause ligament injuries in your neck.

Physical symptoms of a whiplash injury can include:

  • Neck pain
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision

These injuries can also be associated with neurological symptoms like depression, insomnia, and memory problems.

Pain medication, physical therapy, and exercise regimens are the standard treatments for whiplash and neck injuries. Even if treated, however, sometimes chronic pain can persist.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue injuries are also common in car accidents and can include back strains and sprains, contusions, concussions, and lacerations.

These injuries can sometimes affect range-of-motion in the back, shoulders, or neck. Fortunately, if treated early, a soft tissue injury is often easily remedied.

Diagnosing Lower Back Pain from Car a Accident

Back Pain After a Car Accident: Causes, Injury Types, & What to Do 1

If you’ve been in a car accident, you may not realize you’ve sustained a back injury until long after the fact. It can be difficult to detect if you’ve suffered a severe injury, so it’s important to be vigilant for the following symptoms:

  • Back pain
  • Stiffness
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Difficulty standing or walking
  • Muscle spasms.

Be sure not to dismiss any symptom as too small because many of the most common car accident-related back injuries can exist quietly at first and without symptoms. In most cases, the only way to diagnose many of these injuries is with a CT scan or an MRI, so it’s crucial to see a doctor as soon as you notice any symptoms.

After an accident, you should always seek medical attention. Some injuries to the back, stomach, hips, or chest may take time to present themselves. Catching these injuries early can make a huge difference in your recovery.

Types of Treatment for Back Injuries Caused by Car Accidents

Treatments for back injuries caused by car accidents vary because there are many different types of injuries. Below are some of the most common types of treatment.

Emergency Treatments: Spine Surgery

Severe spine injuries like fractures and lacerations to the spine itself must be remedied with surgery.

Surgical Treatment

Back surgeries can serve to stabilize the area after a serious injury, repair and reposition broken or herniated discs, or even fuse multiple vertebrae that need extra stabilization for proper healing and pain management.

Some of the most common emergency surgical interventions for car accident-related back injuries are discectomies, vertebroplasty, and spinal fusions.

Non-Surgical Treatments

In less severe cases, surgery isn’t necessary. There are other means by which doctors and healthcare practitioners can help car accident victims heal from a back injury.

Treatment Plans

Often, these noninvasive treatments must be planned out over weeks, if not several months. The treatment plan can have many facets, including:

  • Taking time off work to properly rest
  • Medication
  • Attending physical therapy sessions
  • At-home exercises
  • Regular physician checkups

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is an important part of healing from a car accident back injury. Working with a professional, you will learn the best exercises to build back strength and range of motion slowly. If completed correctly and consistently, following these exercises can help keep stiffness at bay and shorten recovery time.

Doctors will often recommend that you see a qualified chiropractor as well. Chiropractic care can be a helpful addition to physical therapy. This type of care helps keep your skeletal system aligned while the ligaments and muscles holding it in place are healing.


Medication and physical therapy go hand-in-hand in an effective treatment plan. While physical therapy is necessary for regaining the use of the affected area, there will often be pain associated with the process.

Therefore, it’s important to take all doctor-prescribed medications as directed. Medications will not only manage pain levels, but anti-inflammatory drugs will help you complete strength-building exercises and heal efficiently.

How a Lawyer Can Help if You’ve Been Injured

Back Pain After a Car Accident: Causes, Injury Types, & What to Do 2

When you’ve been injured in a car accident, the days and weeks after can be hectic, stressful, and challenging. You will face insurance claims related to the damage and loss of property and medical appointments attending to any injuries you may have sustained. If you’ve suffered a severe back injury, you will likely need another party to assist you with some of these more complicated processes.

Hiring a car accident attorney is a smart step to take if you want to be sure that your rights are protected. An attorney can guide you in filing lawsuits and handling insurance claims in a timely and efficient manner. Lawyers can help negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf to ensure that you are fairly compensated for your injuries. Allowing an attorney to handle the legal claims allows you to focus your time and energy on your health and feeling better.

Final Thoughts

A car accident can be a traumatic and life-changing event. You must be vigilant for signs of a back injury which can turn into a serious and chronic condition if left untreated. It is a good idea to visit a doctor as soon as possible after your accident to be sure that there is no resulting injury.

Often, many serious back injuries can occur without symptoms, and the majority of them can only be diagnosed by medical imaging. It’s imperative to visit your doctor early to prevent a more serious injury down the road.

If you have suffered a back injury, it can be difficult to navigate all the resulting responsibilities.

At David Bryant Law, our personal injury lawyers are sensitive to your needs and well-equipped to handle your case. Our attorneys will work to ensure that you get the best treatment for your injuries so you can focus on your recovery.

Give us a call or use our contact form to see how we can help.

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David G. Bryant is certified to practice in all state courts in Kentucky, and federal courts in the Eastern and Western districts of Kentucky, Southern District of New York, Southern District of West Virginia, Northern District of Ohio, Middle District of Tennessee, and Western District of Pennsylvania. He is licensed to practice before the United States Supreme Court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.