Automobile accidents can cause a great deal of damage to the structures of your spine as they react to forces generated by a crash. Whiplash, clinically known as cervical acceleration-deceleration (CAD) syndrome, can cause pain for years after a car crash, especially if discs become herniated and nerves are compressed.
The weight of your head is the primary reason neck injuries are so common in car crashes. About the weight of a bowling ball, momentum can cause your head to travel forward and back, tearing at the ligaments, muscles and spinal segments that support it. Sometimes it can take several days for the after-effects of a car accident to manifest as pain and other symptoms.
While neck injuries are common after a car accident, other areas of the spine can be affected as well. For example, you may experience a herniated disc in your low back, with pain radiating to your hip and down your leg.
CAD sometimes causes discs in the spine to become herniated, meaning they bulge out between vertebrae. In the process, spinal nerve roots can become pinched and inflamed, causing pain, numbness or weakness that may radiate to other parts of the body. Pinched nerve pain is typically felt on only one side of the body, but it may be felt on both if more than one nerve root is compressed.
It may be difficult to diagnose a herniated disc immediately after a car accident, and its symptoms may not become evident until days after the crash. Patient history and a clinical exam are the most common diagnostic tools used to assess spinal damage after a car accident. Diagnostic imaging may be brought into play if a fracture or neurological damage is suspected.
There are a number of self-treatment options to help reduce the pain associated with a pinched nerve, including rest, applying ice and heat, and taking over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or naproxen, to manage pain and reduce inflammation. However, physical therapy may be the best option to repair overall damage and restore full function.
The trauma of a car crash can leave an accident victim with injuries that are not readily apparent. Traditional medical treatment often focuses on pain management, without considering the complex relationship between the spine and other areas of the body.
At NYDNRehab, we take a holistic approach to diagnosing and treating post-traumatic injuries. We go beyond managing your pain to identifying and correcting the underlying mechanisms. If you were in a car accident, contact NYDNRehab today, and let us help you recover fully from your injuries so you can get on with your busy life.