Why are Low Back Injuries Common in Car Accidents?
The low back is one of the most common areas of injury in a car or truck accident. This is due to the mechanics of the body while in a seated position. When in a seated position, the lower part of the body, the pelvic area and hips, bear the majority of the weight. As a result, when a car accident occurs, the low spine, which sits on top of the pelvic area, tends to absorb much of the impact. Depending on the severity and type of impact, rear-end, head-on or intersection (t-bone), the spine will be pushed forward and backward or side to side. The neck also tends to be injured in car accidents.
In severe impact car accident situations, the mid back (thoracic) can sustain injury. For example, it is not uncommon to see multiple mid-back herniations in a high speed rear-end accident or intersection accident.
At the lower end of the spine are 13 vertebrae:
- 5 low spine vertebrae;
- 5 sacral vertebrae; and
- 3 vertebrae in the coccyx, the tail end of the spine.
In between most of the vertebrae are soft discs. These discs absorb the impact between vertebrae. Car accidents tend to result in injuries to these intervertebral discs.
Back Injuries in a Car Accident
Discs L4-5 and L5-S1 are located near the bottom of the spine, just above the hips or buttock area. Therefore, these two vertebral discs are usually injured in a car accident. Bulging discs, herniations or protrusions are very common and can cause significant pain symptoms when discs move out of position enough to pinch or compress a nerve. Nerve compression can also cause weakness, numbness or tingling which can radiate to other areas of the body, such as the lower legs. This is commonly called radiculopathy. When the sciatic nerve is compressed, resulting in pain, weakness, numbness and tingling in the leg(s) it is called sciatica.
In addition, annular tears occur when the disc literally tears or rips. Annular tears may be very painful and difficult to treat, especially ones that occur close to the vertebral endplates (close to the vertebrae). Annular tears may require surgery.
Diagnostic Tests & Low Back Injuries
At the emergency room, most individuals will undergo x-rays, which tend to show bone fractures and are not ideal to reveal disc pathology. Generally, CT-scans are only performed at the emergency room in major accident cases. Due to the radiation risk involved in CT-scans, they are often performed only in major injury cases. They may be performed when an individual has head trauma or when a spine fracture is suspected.
After the emergency room, an individual injured in a car accident will usually treat with their family doctor or orthopedic doctor, depending on the nature of the injuries. In cases of strain and sprain, rest and pain medication are usually recommended. In more serious cases, an orthopedic doctor or other specialist may order MRIs to determine the extent of the injuries.
If you suffered a low back injury as a result of a car accident in Delaware, please call our office to set up a free consultation. (302) 658-1717
Our lawyers have been helping those injured in car, truck and pedestrian accidents for over 30 years.