The forces involved in a car accident can result in injuries to any part of the body, but certain areas are more vulnerable than others for harm. Among commonly injured body parts is the spinal column and the tissue surrounding it, manifesting itself in neck and back injuries. While the nature of a specific injury may vary, the pain caused by them are often the same and regularly severe.
The spine is commonly divided into sections to describe the portion of the spine involved. The cervical spine begins at the base of the neck and extends for seven bones, or vertebrae, down to the upper back. Below the cervical spine is the thoracic spine, the portion of the backbone that stretches from the upper back to the lower middle back and is made up of 12 vertebrae. The lower spine is called the lumbar spine and it begins immediately after the thoracic spine and extends for five vertebrae and ends at the sacrum, a portion of the spine that incorporates five fused vertebrae and that connects the spinal column to the hip bones.
The vertebrae that comprise the spine have a hollow center which allows for passage of the spinal cord, a bundle of nerves that is responsible for transmitting information from the brain to most parts of the body and back. It is critically important that the spine maintains its integrity so that the spinal cord maintains protected. Any disruption to this part of the body can cause serious harm, including paralysis, and may even cause death.
Between each of the vertebrae of the spine is a disc which functions as a shock absorber for the spine and body. The disc has a soft outside layer which protects an inner substance that has the consistency of jelly, enabling some compression of the spine without the vertebral bones making direct contact with one another.
Injuries to the back and neck can involve one or more parts of the spine, especially if a victim is jerked during the collision either forward, backward, or to the side.
Neck sprains and strains are very common after a collision and result when the muscles surrounding the spine are stretched or torn. Often called whiplash, a sprain or strain of the neck may lead on its own or may require treatment from a medical professional.
A bulging or a herniated disc is another common result of a car accident, including those that happen in the Phoenix area. The difference between a bulging and herniated disc is not always easy to determined and may be seen differently by different medical professionals but generally, the conditions involve an intervertebral disc extending beyond its normal, aligned position and encroaching on another area, like the spinal cord. A herniated disc may also be associated with an annual tear in some cases, a condition where the outside layer of the disc is damaged and the inside material from the disc is allowed to extend beyond the disc’s normal exterior.
Radiculopathy is another common result from a car accident and can occur at multiple levels of the spine. Radiculopathy refers to a condition where a nerve is entrapped, pinched, or irritated and often can be caused by a herniated or bulging disc. In other cases, radiculopathy may stem from a bone spur or a fracture to one of the vertebral bodies in the spine. When radiculopathy is present, a victim may feel shooting pain and/or numbness extending into her body, including her arms or legs, as a result of the spinal condition.
Fractures or bone breaks to the spine are also very common in a collision and particularly so when the impact involved is severe. Like any broken bone, a fractured spine can be painful and warrants medical treatment but unlike some other breaks, it can turn life-threatening if not properly diagnosed or addressed by a medical professional.
While the above conditions are common following a collision, they are far from an exhaustive list. If a car accident caused you to be injured, consider speaking with a personal injury attorney to learn about your legal options and whether you are entitled to payment for your damages.
Prior Blog Entry:
50 Children are Involved in Backover Car Accidents Every Week in the United States, Phoenix Injury Lawyer Blog, published October 17, 2016.