Though the spine is extremely durable, it is also prone to injuries or permanent damage in certain scenarios. Car accidents are a common cause of spinal injuries due to the unnatural forces and movements that can be a part of them, and there are a number of common injuries that occur after an accident. Luckily, a good spine doctor will know what to check for if you’ve been in an accident to ensure your spine has not sustained damage. This guide will help you understand which parts of the spine are the most likely to be injured and how.
The Cervical Spine
The upper part of your spine, beginning at the base of your skull and extending down the neck into the upper back, is known as the cervical spine. The neck is highly vulnerable during accidents, as even the most minor incident can lead to neck pain. This is usually as a result of a muscle or ligament in the neck becoming strained, which often heals easily and without extensive treatment. However, a number of more serious injuries can occur in the cervical spine.
Whiplash: The most common car accident injury is what’s known as whiplash, or damage to the soft tissue and/or joint complex in the neck and shoulder area. This results from the jerking motion your body makes when a car is hit, causing violent movement that the body is not used to and tearing or straining the tissue.
Herniated Disc: Your spine is composed of vertebrae which are cushioned by gelatin-like discs. When these discs bulge out of place or rupture, it can cause nerve pain and eventually nerve damage. This often occurs over time as a result of degeneration but can happen when a sudden impact, like a car accident, is involved.
Spinal Fracture: The pressure of a jerking movement in a car accident can cause compression fractures of the spine, as well as a condition called spondylolisthesis in which the vertebrae fractures and then shifts to place pressure on the spinal column. This can cause pain, numbness, or even a loss of bladder control.
Spinal Cord Injuries: Some of the most severe injuries sustained in car accidents are those to the spinal cord. While much of the spine can be repaired, spine doctors have yet to find a way to repair this bundle of nerves protecting it. Once the initial inflammation passes, spinal cord injuries can be severe and require a lot of treatment and support to work through but are unlikely to be healed. The most common spinal cord injury in an accident occurs when the cord is severed in some way, by debris or a car’s movement.
The Lumbar Spine
The lower part of your back is the most prone to injury, though they are often less severe injuries than when the cervical spine is involved. The lower back is composed of bones, muscles, and tissues that begin at the cervical spine and stretch down to your pelvic bone. This is particularly vulnerable to sprain or strain injuries.
When an excessive force is placed on your body, like during a collision, the ligaments, tendons, and muscles can all be stretched beyond their normal capacity, leading to injury. This can cause chronic pain, lasting for weeks or even months. In severe cases, a micro tear can occur, necessitating more long term care from a spine doctor.
Another common injury to the lumbar spine is known as an annular tear. In this case, the discs surrounding the vertebrae crack or tear, leading to pain and inflammation. These can be difficult to diagnose as they present with generalized back pain but can lead to complications over time without proper care.
Seeking Care for Spinal Injuries
Spinal care is important after an accident because your spine plays an extremely important role in your body. It not only affects your movement and physical wellness, but it has an impact on your nerves and therefore other systems in your body as well. After an accident, you should always see an expert spine doctor for a full medical evaluation to make sure there are no injuries, hidden or obvious, to your spine. At Bend Spinal Care, our team of spine specialist physicians (Dr. Welker and Dr. Pope) can diagnose your injuries and create comprehensive, personalized treatment plans designed for a safe and efficient recovery.
If you have been involved in a car accident or are suffering a spinal injury, contact us today to begin a path towards healing your spine (541) 318-8627.