neck and back pain after car accident

Why Do I Have Neck & Back Pain after a Car Crash?

Auto accidents happen all the time, and many of them result in minor vehicle damage. These are commonly referred to as “fender benders”. But damage from car accidents is not always limited to the vehicle. Even in what appear to be minor vehicle accidents, those involved can sustain moderate to severe injuries. This is largely due to the sharp jolt vehicle occupants experience due to the impact of a collision, even one that happens at a relatively low speed.

The force of the collision can throw drivers and passengers back and forth in a rapid, jerky motion that the body is simply not prepared for. Our bodies were not designed to be thrown in this manner, and in many cases, the accident catches those involved by surprise, making them unable to brace for the impact.

In the heat of the moment, you may not feel like anything is physically wrong. In fact, you are likely more concerned about what (if any) damage the collision did to your vehicle. Later on, however, you start to feel some neck and back pain coming on. This pain may start to set in several hours or even a few days after the accident.

It is not uncommon for things to play out this way, and there is a good reason why many people do not feel the pain of their injury immediately after a car accident. It has to do with the adrenaline rush you experience at the scene. After a collision, your heart rate increases and your mind starts racing, and you are solely focused on dealing with the situation. This is similar to what an athlete experiences when they are injured in a game and continue playing. The adrenaline masks the pain of the injury until well after the game is over.

Reasons for Neck and Back Pain after a Car Accident

If you start to feel neck pain within a couple days or a week or so after a vehicle accident, it is frequently the sign of a whiplash injury. Whiplash is often thought of as a severely sprained or strained neck, and it is caused by the forceful and rapid back-and-forth movement of the body.  This is similar to what can happen during a vehicle collision, and usually one that involves the vehicle being rear-ended.

Signs and symptoms of a whiplash injury may start to occur right away, or as we discussed earlier, they may not start to show up for several days. Some of the most common symptoms of this condition include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness;
  • Decreased range of motion in the neck;
  • More intense pain with neck movement;
  • Muscle spasms;
  • Headaches that usually originate at the base of the skull;
  • Pain or tenderness in the shoulders, arms, and upper back;
  • Numbness or tingling of the arms;
  • Dizziness and blurred vision;
  • Tiredness and fatigue;
  • Anxiety and sleep disturbances;
  • Problems with memory and concentration;
  • Lower back pain;
  • Depression.

Studies Show the Serious Long-Term Effects of Whiplash Injuries

According to a research study published in Neurology (a peer-reviewed medical journal), around eight percent of whiplash victims are unable to resume their normal activity levels more than one year after the incident due to the pain and stiffness caused by the whiplash injury.

Over a period of seven years, researchers studied a group of 4,124 vehicle accident victims. They discovered significant incidents of long-term whiplash effects, with percentages differing based on the type of accident and the seriousness of the initial injuries.

In certain groups, the risk of developing chronic disability and handicap after whiplash was found to be as high as 50 percent. On top of this, the same study found that serious whiplash pain symptoms may be present in accident victims whose x-rays do not indicate any injury.

Who Is at Risk?

Primarily, the following groups of people are impacted by the long-term effects of whiplash, namely:

Serious Injury Victims

The more devastating the impact of the injury (and the more serious the initial whiplash), the more likely it is that the symptoms will persist for over a year.

Reduced Neck Motion as an Initial Symptom

A 2001 Neurology study indicates that victims who suffered from reduced neck movement were at the greatest risk, and 75 percent of them still remained handicapped after one year.

Rear-End Vehicle Accident Victims

Whiplash can occur in any vehicle accident (as well as many other types of personal injury accidents). However, rear-end car accident victims are at a greater risk of developing chronic whiplash.

Lack of Treatment

Accident victims who do not seek adequate medical treatment soon after whiplash are more likely to experience long-term symptoms. The aforementioned may be true even in some victims whose initial injuries are not serious, as initial injury aggravation can prolong healing.

Vulnerable People

Senior citizens, children, and disabled adults are at a higher risk for the long-term effects of a whiplash injury. Posture and position within the vehicle can lead to more serious whiplash, irrespective of one’s age or pre-existing medical conditions.

Aside from whiplash, neck, shoulder, and back pain may be signs of other types of injuries as well. These may include:

  • Herniated disc;
  • Spinal cord injury (SCI);
  • Thoracic spine injury;
  • Lumbar spine injury.

Treatment for Neck and Back Pain after a Car Accident

There are some ways to temporarily relieve neck and back pain at home. The two most common are to apply ice and heat to the affected area(s). Ice helps reduce the swelling and inflammation, while heat increases circulation and helps loosen tight muscles. These home remedies may help relieve your pain, but it is also essential to seek medical treatment as soon as you start to experience symptoms of an injury. 

The sooner a medical professional can properly diagnose your condition, the better they will be able to effectively treat it. If you wait too long, things could get worse, and additional complications may develop. Another important reason to seek immediate medical help is that it helps establish a connection between the accident and your injury. 

If another party caused the accident and you experienced quantifiable losses, such as medical bills, time missed from work, and pain and suffering, you may have the right to compensation. But if you put off going to the doctor, it may be argued that your injury was caused by something else and/or you did not fulfill your legal duty to mitigate your losses because you let too much time pass, leading to further complications.

Experiencing Back and Neck Pain after an Auto Accident? Contact a Seasoned Mississippi Personal Injury Attorney

If you or someone close to you has neck or back pain following a car crash, see a medical professional right away, then get in touch with an experienced accident injury lawyer. An attorney can thoroughly review your case and advise you of your legal rights and options, so you know whether or not you should pursue compensation. At the Gardner law firm, we have successfully represented numerous individuals who have been injured in auto accidents in Mississippi, and we work closely with our clients to provide the skilled and personalized representation they need and deserve.

For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at (228) 900-9618, or send us a message through our online contact form.