Neck and lower back pain are common after a car accident, especially accidents involving rear-end collisions, rollovers, head-on crashes, and T-bone accidents. 

During the collision, your neck can be jerked back and forth or side-to-side. Your torso may also be twisted into unnatural positions. The sudden force on the spinal column can cause a variety of injuries that result in neck and lower back pain. 

Unfortunately, some car accident victims experience chronic, long-term neck and lower back pain after an accident. Identifying the cause of the pain is crucial. Your doctor can prescribe a treatment plan to address the pain and other symptoms. 

The Importance of Prompt Medical Care After a Car Accident 

Prompt medical attention after a car accident is in your best interest. Even if you feel “okay” or “fine” after the crash, you could begin to experience symptoms in the hours or days following the accident. Symptoms that seemed minor could worsen in the weeks after the accident.

Seeking immediate medical treatment after a car wreck serves two purposes. First, you need medical care to protect your health. A prompt diagnosis gives you a better chance of recovering from your injuries.

Second, prompt medical care increases the chance you can recover maximum compensation for a car accident claim. 

Insurance companies use delays in medical care to argue that the car crash is not the cause of your neck and lower back pain. Without medical records to verify your injuries, the insurance company may deny your claim. At the very least, delays in medical care could make it more difficult to recover compensation for some damages in a personal injury case

Diagnosing Neck and Back Injuries After a Car Crash

A doctor generally begins with a physical examination. The doctor may note bruising and other outward signs of trauma or injury. The doctor discusses your symptoms. He may ask you to stand, sit, bend, stretch, raise your arms, turn, lift objects, and perform other activities to access your pain level, range of motion, and flexibility. 

Your doctor may order one or more imagining tests to assist in diagnosing your neck or back injury. Imagining tests may include x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor could also order bone scans, nerve studies, and other tests to determine what is causing your lower back pain or neck pain.

The treatment plan for lower back pain and neck pain depends on the exact injury and the severity of the injury. Physical therapy and medications are common treatments for back and neck pain. More aggressive treatments may be required for severe injuries, including back surgery or neck surgery.

Common Car Accident Injuries That Cause Neck and Lower Back Pain

Any stress to the back or neck during a car crash could result in pain. Some common neck and back injuries caused by car accidents include:

Whiplash

Whiplash is one of the most common neck injuries caused by car accidents. The soft tissues in the neck stretch and tear when the head “whips” back and forth during the collision. 

Most cases of whiplash heal with rest and time. For some individuals, the pain and limited range of motion could continue for months. More aggressive medical treatment may be required for whiplash, including cervical collars and prescription medications.

Herniated Discs

Disc injuries are also common back injuries caused by car wrecks. The discs are the spongy sacs that provide a cushion in the spinal column. They are located in between the vertebrae in the spinal column.

The force of the crash can cause the discs to bulge out of place. In some cases, the discs might tear, causing the gel-like liquid to seep into the spinal column. 

The gel-like substance or the pressure from the bulging disc can cause severe nerve pain, which can make moving difficult. In some cases, the pain is so severe that it is debilitating. 

Fractured Vertebrae

Broken bones in the neck or back can cause permanent impairments and disabilities. Some individuals may require surgery to repair the damage. Common types of fractures in the back and neck include rotation, extension, compression, and flexion spinal fractures. 

Spinal Cord Injuries

The vertebrae protect the spinal cord. Any damage to the vertebrae or the discs could result in damage to the nerves in the spinal cord. Spinal cord injuries can result in partial or complete paralysis. 

An accident victim who sustains a spinal cord injury could require around-the-clock personal care, as well as ongoing medical care, for the rest of their life. 

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is the result of vertebrae fractures and dislocations. It causes the spinal column to narrow because of a trauma or injury. The person may experience severe pain because of the pressure on the spinal nerves from the narrowing of the spinal column. 

How Do I Know My Lower Back Pain or Neck Pain is Serious?

Any pain after a car accident should be treated as a serious health care matter until a physician evaluates you. If you experience lower back pain or neck pain, a doctor needs to evaluate your pain to determine whether you might have a sprain or strain or whether you may have a more serious back or neck injury.

In addition to pain, other symptoms that can indicate a back or neck injury after a car accident include:

  • Limited flexibility or range of motion
  • Swelling 
  • Shoulder pains 
  • Pain radiating through the extremities
  • Tenderness
  • Stiffness in the back or neck
  • Headaches
  • Stabbing or shooting pains
  • Dull aches
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
  • Difficulty walking
  • Problems with balance or coordination
  • Loss of bodily functions
  • Difficulty walking, sitting, or standing
  • Loss of senses 
  • Muscle tension

Seeking immediate medical attention after a car accident is the best way to protect your health. If a doctor evaluated your condition and you experience new or worse symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. 

Can I File a Personal Injury Claim for Lower Back or Neck Pain?

Yes, you can file a personal injury claim after sustaining a back or neck injury because of a car accident. If the other driver caused the collision, that driver is responsible for your damages, including but not limited to:

  • Past and future medical bills
  • In-home health care
  • Costs of personal care
  • Loss of income and benefits
  • Decreases in earning capacity
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Disabilities and impairments
  • Mental trauma and anguish
  • Emotional distress and suffering
  • Loss of quality of life

A personal injury lawyer investigates the cause of the car accident, documents your damages, files an insurance claim, and works to recover the maximum value for your neck or back injury. If the insurance company refuses to agree to a fair settlement, your attorney can proceed with filing a personal injury lawsuit.

Do not wait too long to contact an attorney about your car accident claim. The Texas statute of limitations for car accident claims is generally two years from the accident date. 

However, the deadline for filing a claim could be much shorter, depending on the facts of your case. It is always best to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident.