A car accident can traumatize your body. It may cause pain in your chest from the seat belt or pain in your arms from the explosive inflation of your airbag. You might even feel pain all over.
As you begin to recover, the pain from the bumps and bruises will fade. If you continue to feel pain for more than a few days, you may have suffered a serious back, neck, or head injury. You should consider visiting a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Here is some information about the causes of back pain after a car accident.
Back Trauma During a Car Accident
Your back goes through a lot of stress during a car collision. Forces from the side can cause your back to twist. You might also deliberately twist as the collision happens to protect your face and head.
Your back may also bend laterally. This can happen if the collision happens at an angle or from the side. Auto manufacturers do not design seat belts to prevent you from bending to the sides. There will be little to slow your lateral motion.
But the most common stress on your back comes from stopping suddenly or getting hit from behind. During a collision, your body and head want to keep moving at the same speed your car was moving before the crash. Only hitting the seat belt, airbag, steering wheel, dashboard, and seat will stop your motion.
As your body slows down, your spine hyperextends. You have 24 vertebrae in your spine. A disc sits between each pair of vertebrae. This structure gives your back both strength and flexibility.
The forces in a car accident pull these vertebrae and discs apart. As you come to a stop, the vertebrae and discs snap back and compress. Both hyperextension and compression can damage the vertebrae, discs, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves in the back.
Examples of Injuries that Cause Back Pain
Many injuries can cause back pain, including:
Strains and Sprains
Muscles move your body. Tendons connect muscles to your bones. Strains happen when muscles or tendons stretch or tear.
When your back hyperextends, bends, or twists, you can damage the muscles and tendons. Symptoms of back strain include:
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle spasms
Ligaments connect the vertebrae. A car crash can sprain these ligaments by stretching or tearing them.
Symptoms of a back sprain include:
- Back instability
Doctors usually prescribe rest and anti-inflammatory drugs for back sprains and strains.
A vertebra has a cylindrical body and several wing-shaped processes. Ligaments and tendons connect to the processes. The body bears your weight.
When the body fractures, the vertebra can become unstable. The unstable vertebra can compress or sever the nerves of the spinal cord. Bone fragments from the fracture can enter the spinal column and pinch nerves.
When a process fractures, the tendons, and ligaments cannot hold the vertebra in place. The vertebra can injure the spinal cord.
Either of these fractures can cause severe pain.
The discs have a fibrous exterior surrounding a gel-like interior. When the discs get compressed, they can bulge or herniate.
A bulging disc happens when the disc deforms from its cylindrical shape into a barrel shape. The bulging sides can compress nerves in the spinal cord.
A herniated disc happens when the fibrous exterior ruptures and allows the gel-like interior to leak out. The protruding gel can pinch the spinal cord.
In either case, you will probably feel excruciating pain from the damaged disc.
Getting Help for Back Pain
If you experience back pain after a car accident, you should seek medical attention. Doctors can sometimes relieve your pain and prescribe physical therapy to support your back.
You will also need to get a diagnosis and treatment to seek compensation for your injuries. Medical records often play a key role in injury cases. Seeking medical attention helps you build up these records.