BACK & NECK INJURIES: PINPOINTING THE SOURCE OF PAIN
Some of the most common injuries after an auto accident occur in the back and neck. If these injuries go undiagnosed and untreated, the long-term repercussions are far worse than they would have been with prompt medical treatment. It is always important to see a doctor after an auto accident. This way, you can get a professional medical opinion and proper treatment for your injuries, as opposed to simply hoping the pain will go away on its own.
Proper medical care is necessary to determine the source of your pain. Of course, you can trace the start of your pain to the day of the car crash. But you still don’t know the exact origin of the pain. Is it an injury to the bone? A muscle? A ligament? A nerve? Your pain may even be originating from a combination of these four sources.
Injury to the Bone
Back and neck pain caused by injury to the bone can be from a fracture or a joint injury. There are many types of fractures, which is another reason a proper medical examination is key. If a fracture is ruled out, there may still be a joint injury.
To determine whether your back and neck pain is caused by a joint injury, a doctor can test your range of motion or look for muscle spasm, bruising, and misalignment. X-rays are useful diagnostic tools in identifying a fracture. Pain caused by an injury to the bone rarely subsides, even with restricted activity.
Some types of bone fractures require surgery. Other types of bone fractures, as well as joint injuries, can be resolved through physical therapy. It is important for patients to complete physical therapy as ordered by their doctors because it is a slow process that gradually builds over time. You will not reach your maximum recovery potential if you discontinue physical therapy halfway through the regimen. If physical therapy does not alleviate the back and neck pain caused by injury to the bone, an MRI may be necessary. The doctor might also consider injections or surgical options.
Injury to the Muscle
Back and neck pain can be caused by a torn muscle, whiplash, inflammation, or muscle spasm.
To determine whether back and neck pain is caused by injury to the muscle, the doctor can perform a visual examination to look for bruising that indicates an underlying muscle injury. The doctor can feel for muscle spasm and examine your range of motion, as well. This type of pain can be controlled by limiting activity and tends to be worsened by increased activity. Neck pain caused by muscle injury is often accompanied by headaches.
Pain caused by injury to the muscle can be treated by alleviating the pain through physical therapy, then working to strengthen the muscle. Injections may be necessary for the pain that cannot be alleviated through physical therapy.
Injury to the Ligament
Ligaments lie underneath the muscles. They serve to support the joints and hold the bones together. Back and neck pain caused by a ligament injury results from a tear in the ligament.
These types of injuries are difficult to diagnose. A tell-tale sign of a ligament injury is increasing pain over the days following the accident. This type of pain can be controlled by limiting activity. Unfortunately, people with long-term ligament injuries often develop muscle pain, as well.
To treat a ligament injury, your doctor will normally order physical therapy. Stretching and strengthening exercises are also common forms of treatment. If these conservative treatments do not work, an injection may be necessary. Surgery is generally not an option.
Injury to the Nerve
Many nerves originate from the spinal cord and branch out into the limbs. Neck and back pain from an injury to the nerve is generally caused by compression of the nerve, either by a muscle or herniated disc. A bulging disc or damage to the peripheral nerves can also cause pain.
A neurological examination can be used to diagnose this source of pain. A doctor can trace the pain to the nerve root that is producing it. Pain caused by a nerve injury often radiates down the limbs and must be traced from the site of pain to the source of pain in the back or neck.
This type of pain can be treated through physical therapy and stretching and strengthening exercises. If conservative treatment does not resolve the pain, diagnostic testing can be performed to pinpoint the source of pain. Then, after making this determination, injections or surgery may be appropriate.
Auto accidents sometimes cause victims to suffer from back and neck pain. All too often, the source of pain is not properly diagnosed, and thus the injury is not properly treated. This article is by no means meant as a substitute for medical care, but it educates you on the possible sources of back and neck pain and helps you know what to expect during your medical care.
It is important to seek quality medical care after being involved in a car crash. Sometimes, injuries do not present themselves right away but develop over time. Prompt medical attention can catch these injuries before the pain becomes unbearable. If you or someone you know has been involved in an auto accident, contact a Board Certified personal injury attorney to evaluate your potential claim.