young doctor in white holding an xray photo of a back

What Are the Most Common Spinal Injuries From Accidents?

The spine is central in the human body’s structure, and unfortunately, it is highly vulnerable to the violent force of an accident. And when a person injures their spine, it often becomes a lifelong problem.

Causes of Back Injuries

One of the main causes of back injuries is car accidents. The abrupt halt of your body’s motion by seat belts, airbags, or other car components can result in sprains, fractures, or severe injuries to the spine. 

But this isn’t the only cause. Other common problems that result in back injury are work and sports-related. An excess of effort, a bad movement, or a strong hit can affect the back and cause a lifelong of pain or even disability.

Spine Areas That Can Be Affected

Car collisions can affect various parts of the spine, including the lumbar vertebrae, thoracic vertebrae, and cervical vertebrae. Each area has different challenges when injured. The lumbar spine, with its five vertebrae, is particularly susceptible to injuries due to the soft discs between each vertebra. Thoracic injuries aren’t as common, but they are more serious, potentially affecting breathing and more.

Symptoms of Back Injuries After an Accident

Back pain can manifest in various ways, from muscle spasms and burning pain to stiffness, sharp pain, discomfort during movement, and numbness. Additionally, injuries to cervical vertebrae may cause headaches, dizziness, or disorientation. Since the spine conducts the connections between your brain and the rest of your body, a spine injury can result in a wide variety of symptoms.

Duration of Back Pain After an Accident

The recovery time for back pain will depend on the severity of the injury and your overall health. While mild back pain may resolve within days or weeks, it can also be present for months or even years if not treated. Different types of injuries, such as herniated discs, back strains, and whiplash, have varying recovery timelines.

These types of injuries with long-term effects are debilitating, so to avoid this, you need to consult a doctor who can suggest a treatment that can give you a great chance of recovery.

Types of Common Spinal Injuries

There are 33 bones in the spine, which go across a large part of your body, maintaining its upright position. With such an important role and so many pieces, it can get injured in many ways. Below are some of the main ones.

Back Sprains and Strains

Strains are the soft tissue stretches and sprains that affect the ligaments connecting joints or bones. Both are very common types of back injury and can cause persistent pain. Usually, these injuries result from sports accidents.

Herniated Discs

During a car accident, discs can shift and compress nerves, leading to a herniated disc. This condition occurs when the inner part of the disc pushes through the outer ring, causing pain, numbness, or weakness. Prompt medical attention is crucial to address this severe condition.

Facet Joint Injuries

Facet joints, located between spine bones, enable movement without harming the spine. Damage to these joints can cause pain, muscle tightening, tenderness, or radiating pain. A thin cartilage or previous trauma can contribute to facet joint problems.

Lumbar Fractures

Fractures are the breakage or damage of one or more vertebrae. Burst fracture, flexion fracture, compression fracture, and fracture-dislocation describe different patterns of damage. The severity of fractures can range from minor cracks to more severe injuries, potentially affecting the spinal cord.

Degenerative Spinal Disorders

Traumatic injury to the back can accelerate degenerative disc disorders over time. This may lead to various conditions such as bulging discs, scoliosis, osteoarthritis, sciatica, pinched nerves, and more.

Discogenic Pain

Damage to spinal discs can lead to discogenic pain, characterized by sharp sensations or shooting pains. The discomfort may extend to the lower parts of the body like the groin, feet, or legs, with varying responses to different positions or activities.


The displacement of a vertebra due to a stress fracture, potentially compressing the spinal canal or nerves, is called spondylolisthesis. Symptoms include weakness, pain, numbness, or difficulty walking, emphasizing the need for a thorough medical evaluation.

What to Do After a Car Accident

The first thing to do after any type of accident is to get medical attention and evaluation. Even small discomfort can lead to a lot of pain in the future. Go to a medical specialist to check your condition and determine if everything is all right before engaging in activities that could worsen your condition. 

Treatment After an Accident

Naturally, the treatment you could receive after an accident will depend on the type of injury and degree. Options may include physical therapy, medications, corticosteroid injections, or, in severe cases, surgery.

Supporting Back Injury Recovery at Home

Professional treatment is essential, but you can also do things at home to improve your condition. Limit physical activity and exercise to avoid putting stress on your injuries. Don’t do any heavy lifting for six weeks, and adopt proper sleeping positions with the aid of pillows or towels. Applying ice in the first few days, followed by heat, can alleviate discomfort. Over-the-counter medicine and adherence to medical instructions further contribute to a smoother recovery process. These methods could provide momentary relief, but they’re by no means a substitute for professional treatment.

Consequences of Untreated Back Injuries

Neglecting back injuries can lead to nerve irritation or damage, spinal stenosis, radiculopathy, long-term damage and pain, depression, and bad sleep. Back pain is a very common illness that unfortunately affects many adults and limits their range of motion. It can also impede people from doing all kinds of activities.

Get Compensation for Back Pain Caused by Another’s Negligence

Back injuries are very serious, and in some cases they can be caused by third-party negligence. If this the case in your situation, then you could be eligible for compensation. Get advised by experienced lawyers on your best course of action.


OrthoInfo: Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis.

National Library of Medicine: Discogenic Back Pain: Literature Review of Definition, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Morris & Dewett provides this information to the public for general education and interest. The firm does not represent clients in every topic discussed in answers to frequent questions. The information is curated and produced based on questions commonly asked or search terms commonly used. Every effort is made to provide accurate information. Do not make any decision solely based on the information provided, please seek relevant counsel for each topic area. Consult an attorney before making any legal decision, consult a doctor before making any medical decision, and consult a financial advisor before making any fiscal decision. Information provided is not legal advice. If you have any legal needs, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are pleased to assist you.

Morris & Dewett Will Answer Your Questions and Help You Recover