Back Pain After Car Accident & Back Injury From Car Accident
Back pain is a common complaint among victims of a car accident. If not identified and treated, these pains may last for months or even years.
When trying to prove your case after a car accident it is important to able to show the level of pain you are experiencing, what is causing the pain, and how long the pain is expected to last. After years of experience handling car accident claims, our legal team has come to understand which tests offer the results that are needed to help recover the full amount of compensation for your injuries.
Before your treating physician can diagnose your neck or back pain, they will need to conduct a thorough examination and document the events that led up to your injury. It is important to give as many details about the accident as you can remember, including the speed of the vehicle and the area on your car it collided with. This type of information can help the physician pinpoint the source of your pain.
Diagnosing the Cause of Neck or Back Pain after a Car Accident
MRI v. Nerve Conduction Study (EMG)
The Physical Exam
The physician will conduct some routine tests in order to narrow down where the neck or back pain is coming from. You will be asked to twist, bend and move to see which of these motions bring on bursts of pain. They will also be looking for signs of lost flexibility.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
An MRI is a diagnostic tool that can create a real-time 3-D image of the spine. This will show changes in the soft tissues like nerves and ligaments to help a physician isolate the area where the pain is coming from. An MRI is also helpful in diagnosing herniated disc and other spinal cord traumas.
Your treating physician might also order that an EMG test is conducted. This test is able to look at the function of the nerves in the back and neck by placing tiny electrodes in the muscles of the lower extremity. Those electrodes are able to read the electrical signals in the muscles to determine if a nearby nerve is being pinched. This helps in measuring the exact conditions of the nerves.
While the MRI is able to provide a physical picture of the damage to your neck and spine, the EMG is able to measure the extent of your injury. Combined, the two are able to provide a perfect analysis of the neck and spine to submit as evidence of your injury in your car accident claim.
Types of Back Injuries
The back is a complex network of bones, muscles, nerves and other tissues that extend from the neck to the pelvis. There are a number of injuries that can occur to a person’s back. The lower back is the most common site of a back injury and back pain. Some of the most common types of injuries include:
- Herniated Disc
- Spinal Cord Injury
- Compression Fractures
- Sprains and Strains
The bones in the back that form the spine are cushioned by small, sponge-like discs. When a disc becomes damaged, it can break open or bulge. This is also often referred to as a slipped or ruptured disc.
A herniated disc can occur anywhere in the spine. However, they are more common in the lower back. An injury to the spine can cause small tears or cracks in the hard outer layer of the disc. When this happens the soft gel inside the disc can leak out or bulge.
Some common symptoms of a herniated or ruptured disc may include pain and numbness in the back, leg or buttock.
Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal cord consists of a lot of nerves that carry impulses to and from the brain and out to the rest of the body. A spinal cord injury (SCI) is an injury to the nerves themselves or to the bones and tissues surrounding them caused by trauma. Depending on where the injury is, the symptoms can vary from pain to paralysis.
Complete and incomplete are the two kinds of spinal cord injuries. With a complete injury, all feeling and voluntary movement are lost below the injured area. With an incomplete injury, a person still has the ability to function below the injured area.
The spine is made up of bones that are called vertebrae. When one of these vertebrae breaks and then collapses, this is known as a vertebral compression fracture. This type of back injury most commonly occurs in the middle portion of the spine. When this happens it can put pressure on the spinal cord. These types of injuries can cause severe pain and can result in chronic back pain.
Sprains and Strains
Sprains and strains have similar symptoms. Throughout your back is a series of ligaments and muscles. Their job is to hold the bones in your spinal column in place. A sprain occurs when a ligament is stretched or torn. A strain is a when a muscle or tendon is stretched or torn.
Symptoms of a lower back strain are pain and stiffness in the back, buttock, and legs.
Chronic Back Pain After a Car Accident
Millions of American’s suffer from chronic back pain. This is defined as pain in the back that lasts longer than six months. It can range in severity from inconvenient, mild pain to excruciating, debilitating pain.
Chronic pain often begins with an initial injury, such as being involved in a car accident. However, being in an accident may make a preexisting problem even worse. Living with chronic back pain can cause other problems such as anxiety, fatigue, and stress. Therefore, chronic back pain may require continual medical treatment to manage.
The three different types of back injuries that could cause a broken back include:
Fractures: This occurs when there is more pressure exerted on the bone than it can take. This can cause the vertebrae to break or collapse. If the trauma is serious, it can push the broken bone fragments in the spinal canal.
Dislocation: This occurs when the discs or ligaments that connect two vertebrae are torn or stretched causing the bones to push out of alignment.
Fractured dislocations: This type of injury is a combination of a fracture and a dislocation. A fractured dislocation is an extremely serious type of injury and often requires surgical repair.
Common symptoms of a broken back
When a person suffers a broken back in a car accident, they will likely experience severe back pain along with some other symptoms. While back pain could also result from a less severe injury such as a back sprain, it is always important to seek medical attention right away. Timely treatment could mean the difference between complete recovery and a lifetime of disability. Some common symptoms to watch out for include:
- Muscle Spasms
- Stooped Over Posture
- Inability to Move
- Difficulty Walking
When a person suffers a broken back, the pain will likely increase when the victim tries to walk or attempts to perform even simple movements such as stretching or bending down.
Treatment options for a broken bone
When someone suffers a broken back, the first step should be to immobilize the back in order to prevent any further injury. If the victim cannot receive medical attention right away, they can use over the counter medication to relieve pain and use ice to bring down inflammation.
When the victim reports to the emergency room with a back injury, the doctor may perform a physical exam and order X-rays in order to diagnose the exact problem and to figure out the best possible course of treatment.
Common treatments for back injuries include:
- Bed Rest
- Pain Medication
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Back Brace
For severe back injuries such as those in which there is a risk of bone fragments damaging the spinal cord, surgery may be the best possible recourse. The car accident victim may require physical therapy for an extended period of time in order to regain mobility and strengthen the back.
Common types of back surgeries
There are four common types of back surgeries that are often needed after a severe back injury resulting from a car accident. These include:
What Is Spinal Fusion Surgery?
The spinal column is made up of 24 disc-like vertebrae stacked upon each other that protect the spinal cord. These vertebrae can become damaged because of degenerative diseases or injury sustained in an accident, causing immense pain and affecting mobility. People who have suffered vertebral damage because of a car accident injury may have to undergo a spinal fusion surgery.
Spinal fusion surgery is a surgical procedure during which the pieces of vertebrae are welded together to restrict any movement that may be a source of pain. Spinal fusion is recommended for injured victims who have suffered:
- Herniated discs.
- Spinal stenosis.
During the procedure, surgeons use bone grafting to fuse together the pieces of vertebrae. The bone is taken from other parts of the patient’s body, such as a hip, from an artificial grafting material, or from a cadaver. To allow bones time to fuse, surgeons hold the vertebrae in place using screws, rods, and plates.
When Does an Injured Patient Require Back Fusion Surgery?
Spinal fusion is required when a patient has suffered an injury to the discs or vertebrae in the neck or back. The injury can occur as a result of twisting, falling, or an impact injury caused by a jolt that leads to a fracture or herniated disc. This often happens in traumatic car accidents. If the patient has constantly been in pain after the injury, then he or she would probably require back fusion surgery. Such pain is normally caused by body movement that exerts pressure against the spinal nerves and is often disabling. Back fusion surgery stops this movement of the vertebrae and treats the cause of pain.
Other Common Back Surgeries:
- Laminectomy: This surgical procedure is intended at relieving pressure on the spinal cord or surrounding nerves by removing the lamina, which is the back portion of the vertebra covering the spinal canal. This pressure can develop after a car crash, however, it is also common among people who have developed arthritis in the spine.
- Vertebroplasty: This surgical procedure helps stabilize the spine in case of a spinal fracture, which can result from high-speed car accidents. Vertebroplasty is a minimally invasive procedure and involves creating a small hole in the back through which special bone cement is injected. This acrylic bone cement fills up the spaces and cracks in the bones and acts as a kind of internal cast.
- Diskectomy: This is a surgical procedure, which involves removing a portion of the herniated disc in the spine. Herniated discs often compress or irritate nearby nerves and cause intense pain. Besides the pain, the compression can cause weakness or numbness in the arms, neck, and legs. During the surgical procedure, the surgeon uses a small camera and a minimally invasive incision to treat the herniated disc.
These surgical procedures have become less invasive and more efficient with time, but they are major surgical procedures with long recovery time. During the recovery period, the car accident victim may not be able to work, or even perform daily activities. This can result in lost personal time and income.
The Importance of a Medical Exam
Back injuries can occur at any point along the spine or across the shoulders. Back pain from a car accident can be caused by a strain, sprain, spinal injury, or injury to a disc. Even with a serious back injury, the symptoms might not appear immediately after the accident. This is why, regardless of how you are feeling, an immediate medical exam following a car accident of any severity is imperative. You could be putting your chances of recovering monetary compensation for your injuries at risk if you delay treatment.
What is an epidural?
An epidural involves the injection of anti-inflammatory medication into the space between the spinal cord and the dura mater known as epidural space. It is used to reduce nerve pressure and numb any pain in the area. Epidural Steroid Injection is not the same as epidural anesthesia administered during surgery or childbirth.
Epidural is a quick procedure involving several steps and is carried out at a clinic or hospital. You are generally made to lie face down on the X-ray table, and the doctors inject the epidural into the lower back. The doctor may also have to use fluoroscopy to ensure that the needle is placed properly. It is important not to move even if you feel a little pressure in the area. After the procedure, the doctor will likely monitor you for 15-20 minutes before sending you home. The epidural can take 1-7 days to take effect.
Risks and side effects of epidural
While this is generally a safe procedure, some complications may exist. Some of the common complications may include:
- A headache, Stomachache, Dizziness
- Allergic reaction to the medicine
- Leg pain from nerve root damage
- Spinal epidural hematoma, a serious condition requiring immediate medical attention
- Brain or nervous system problems
- Spinal infections
Some side effects of a spinal epidural include:
- Steroid flush or facial flushing
- Increase in pain in the area
- Headaches that may take 24 hours to resolve
Epidurals provide effective short-term relief in nearly 50 percent of the people. The injection may provide relief from symptoms for weeks or months, however, it is unlikely that the effects last longer than that. It is important to follow up this treatment with regular exercise as it will help relieve pain even as the effect fades off. If back pain returns, you may need another epidural shot.
Recovering Compensation for Epidural Steroid Injections
Epidural is an expensive medical procedure and may cost anywhere around $2000 or more. Other procedures such as fluoroscopy may increase the costs further.
If your injury was a result of another driver’s negligence you may be entitled to compensation. However, to have a valid claim, you will have to establish the following:
- The other driver owed you a duty of care
- The at-fault driver breached this duty of care by engaging in negligent behavior such as running a stop signal, driving recklessly or driving when intoxicated
- The breach of the duty of care was the cause of the accident and the resulting injuries
- You suffered damages such as medical expenses and lost wages as a result.
If you are able to prove these four elements, you may be able to recover any costs related to the injuries, including your back pain resulting from the car accident. It is in your best interests to discuss your case with an experienced St. Louis car accident attorney as soon as possible after an accident.
Case Study – Injury to Lumbar Spine
Disc bulges are especially tricky, as they do not typically present themselves immediately and can be caused by any number of other circumstances. Such was the case for a St. Louis driver who suffered from a disc bulge and injury to his lumbar spine following a car crash. After strong medical evidence was presented to prove that causation was indeed the car accident, the case was settled for the policy limit amount of $100,000.
Compensation for Future Medical Care
It is not enough to just ask that your current medical bills be included in a car accident lawsuit that involves a back injury. Take into consideration the long-term future medical care that you will most likely need. Back injuries may take a long time to heal and symptoms are known to reappear unexpectedly. Asking for the cost of future medical care is necessary to make sure you can still be treated for the back injury, even after the case has been closed.
Free Consultation with a St. Louis Car Accident Lawyer
Don’t talk to an insurance claims adjuster before speaking with The Hoffmann Law Firm, L.L.C. We can help you avoid making statements that may affect the outcome of your case. The consultation is free, and you don’t pay unless we get you money!