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Back Pain After a Car Accident

Back pain is a very common condition in the United States. According to the American Chiropractic Association, about 31 million Americans experience back pain at any given moment. Many instances of back pain are the result of common, everyday movements that affect the different components in your back. Other times, back pain can result from more traumatic events, such as an auto accident.

In 2018 alone, there were more than 6.7 million reported motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. Accidents are incredibly common and can happen even to the most careful drivers. The sudden force that vehicle passengers experience during an accident can cause injuries ranging from mild to severe. The back, as a result of the sudden and violent forces generated in a crash, is one of the most commonly impacted areas of the body in an accident. Back pain following an accident can be immediate and obvious. It also may not be evident right away and may even, on occasion, take weeks to materialize. It is important to understand that back pain, particularly back pain that develops following a car accident, can lead to severe and permanent injuries. Back pain may also be temporary and can be alleviated with conservative treatment like physical therapy. If you are experiencing back pain after a car accident, you should undergo a physical examination with a medical professional to determine the cause of your pain and receive the appropriate treatment.

What Causes Back Pain?

To understand why back pain occurs, it is important to have a basic understanding of the structures that compose the back and how they function together. The back consists of the spine, which is made up of vertebrae and intervertebral discs, bands of tissue called ligaments, tendons that attach muscles to bones, and 31 pairs of nerves in the spinal cord. Each of these components are very important and any damage done to them can result in pain.

The back is divided into sections by vertebrae; in order from the top of the spine to the bottom, the sections include:

  • Cervical spine (C1-C7)
  • Thoracic spine (T1-T12)
  • Lumbar spine (L1-L5)
  • Sacrum (S1-S5)
  • Coccyx region

There are 33 bones in total that make up the spinal column, but only the top 24 bones are movable; the rest are fused.

Generally, most back pain occurs in the lumbar spine (lower back) which supports the weight of the upper body and consists of larger vertebrae that are meant to absorb the stress of carrying heavy weight. Additionally, the cervical spine (neck), which supports the weight of the head and has a wide range of motion, is commonly injured in car accidents due to the thrashing motion that can cause tendons or ligaments to overstretch.

Each of these components of the back should be considered and examined when a patient experiences back pain following an auto accident. Depending on the severity of the accident, the reason for back pain can be as mild as a muscle strain or as severe as a herniated disc.

Common Auto Accident Injuries that Cause Back Pain

The force that a car accident exerts on the body can cause a number of potential back injuries depending on factors such as:

  • Severity of the impact
  • Where the victim was sitting in the vehicle
  • The position the victim was sitting in
  • Whether or not they were wearing a seat belt
  • The amount of time they had to prepare for impact

Back pain following a car accident can be indicative of a many different types of injuries, some of the most common include:

Back Sprain or Strain

A back sprain is an injury to a ligament and a strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon. Sprains and strains occur when excessive stress is placed on a muscle by forces such as falls, twists, or blows to the body, injuring the muscles or causing the ligaments to stretch beyond their normal range of motion. Symptoms of these injuries include decreased range of motion, pain that worsens with movements, and muscle cramping.


Whiplash is a very common car accident injury that occurs when the jerking motion from a collision, most commonly a rear-end collision, causes your head to violently move forward and backward, resulting in a sprain/strain in the neck.

The neck, shoulders, and upper back have a combined 32 muscles with a relatively wide range of motion that work together to support both the upper back and the head, which weighs about 8 pounds on average. This wide-ranging flexibility and general lack of stability makes the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in cervical spine prone to injury in car accidents. Symptoms of whiplash include neck pain and stiffness, pain in the neck that worsens with movement, decreased range of motion, headaches, and dizziness.

Herniated Disc

Between the vertebrae of the spine are discs made of a tough exterior and soft interior which act as shock absorbers for the spine. A strong force, such as a vehicle collision, applied to the back can cause the exterior layer of a disc to tear or rupture, allowing the soft interior to leak out of the disc and into the spinal canal; this is called a disc herniation.

Back pain occurs when the contents of a herniated disc press against and agitate the nerves in the spinal canal. It can take time for symptoms of a herniated disc to develop in accident victims. Symptoms include back pain that radiates to other areas of the body, a burning sensation, tingling, numbness, and weakness in your muscles.

Spinal Fracture

In more severe auto accidents, it may be possible to sustain a spinal fracture, which is when one of more vertebrae break. Minor fractures in the spine can heal with conservative treatment like rest and over-the-counter pain medications. However, severe fractures may require surgery to recover. It is very important to receive medical attention if you suspect you may have injured your back as severe spinal fractures can result in permanent damage to your spinal cord and nerves and may even cause paralysis.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a condition where the spinal canal narrows generally as a result of the spine being destabilized by an injury or natural degeneration. In order to stop excess movement and compensate for degeneration, your spine may develop bone spurs or thickened ligaments in the affected area. The bones spurs and thickened ligaments narrow the spinal canal but can consequently place pressure on nerves running through it. Symptoms include pain, muscle weakness, and numbness.

The lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy have a proven track record helping their clients obtain justice. Notable results include a $32,756,156 record-breaking verdict for an injured pedestrian and a $22,500,000 settlement for a man injured in a head-on collision. Call 212-736-5300 to receive a free case evaluation with one of our attorneys today.

Should I File an Auto Injury Lawsuit?

If you are experiencing back pain after a car accident, it is important to remember that back pain can have many different causes. Following an auto accident, you should undergo a physical examination with your doctor to rule out or diagnose any potential injuries before they get worse. It can take time for injury symptoms to appear after an accident.

If you suffered injuries as a result of an accident caused by the negligence of another party, it may be in your best interest to discuss the possibility of filing an auto injury lawsuit with an experienced attorney. By filing a lawsuit, accident victims may be able to receive compensation for losses resulting from their injury such as medical bills, loss of wages, and pain and suffering.

Accident victims who wish to pursue legal action should consult an injury lawyer who has the experience necessary to understand the details of their case, including the medical facts of their injury. A skilled attorney will be able to guide their clients through the legal process and help them understand their options. The car accident lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy are known for their landmark results in tough personal injury cases, including a $110 million verdict for a cyclist who was paralyzed after he was struck by a falling railroad tie and a $32,756,156 record-breaking verdict for a man struck by an impaired driver.

Select* results for clients who suffered back injuries after a serious collision include:

  • $8,000,000 jury verdict for a musician who was travelling with his band when his vehicle was rear-ended, resulting in multiple herniated discs and other injuries.
  • $6,000,000 settlement for a New York City bus passenger who suffered various injuries, including a herniated disc, when the bus collided with another vehicle.
  • $4,600,000 settlement for a man who suffered herniated discs in the cervical and lumbar regions of his spine after his car was struck by another driver.
  • $4,000,000 verdict for a vehicle passenger who suffered multiple herniated discs after a multi-vehicle accident on a bridge.
  • $4,000,000 settlement for a driver who was hit by a car that was making a left turn. Our client sustained herniated discs to his cervical and lumbar regions.
  • $3,500,000 settlement for a 54-year-old driver who suffered herniated discs to his neck and back when he was sideswiped by another vehicle.

To receive a free legal consultation with one of our experienced lawyers, call 212-736-5300 or fill out our online contact form.

*Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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