Back pain is the leading complaint following a car crash. Some back injuries are quickly resolved after a few days’ rest, while others cause ongoing discomfort and the inability to perform daily activities without pain.

It is always important to seek immediate medical treatment following a car accident. A doctor can assess your injuries and make the necessary referrals before the pain becomes too severe. If an injury is left untreated, it can lead to chronic pain, which may require an orthopedic diagnosis and treatment.

What Is The Cause Of Back Injuries From A Car Crash?

In order to explain the cause of back injuries in a car accident, we need to refer to Newton’s Laws of Motion. As your car undergoes an impact, your body remains in motion until something stops it. A seat belt, airbag, steering wheel or even a windshield will stop your body’s forward movement. This violent motion can result in a sprain, fracture or severe injury to numerous body parts, especially those found in your neck, spinal cord and back.  

The Most Common Injuries That Cause Back Pain Symptoms

Back injury symptoms can vary and you may be suffering from one or more injury types.  If you have previously suffered a back injury, a car accident may cause the injury to accelerate.  

The following are the most common injuries that cause symptoms of back pain:


Whiplash is the most common car accident injury. This occurs when the rapid, back-and-forth movement of the head and neck upon impact causes damage and tearing to the tendons, ligaments, muscles, nerves, bones and discs in the cervical spine.  Whiplash injuries can vary from mild to severe and often require physical therapy to heal.

Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains to the lumbar spine are very common back injuries following a car crash. The impact of the collision can cause the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the lower back to overstretch or tear. This type of injury usually leads to acute low back pain, tightness and muscle spasms.

Spinal Disc Damage

The spine consists of 23 discs that sit between vertebrae and provide cushioning and support. A traumatic car crash can damage or displace one or more of these discs.  

Bulging discs occur when a disc shifts out of place and bulges into the spinal canal.

Annular tears occur when a crack forms in a disc’s tough outer ring of ligaments. This causes localized pain and inflammation around the damaged disc.

A herniated disc occurs when a tear causes the inner nucleus of a disc to leak into the spinal canal.

These types of injuries are usually treated with non-invasive methods, although surgery may be used to treat the injury if the herniation is severe and impacts other vital structures in the body.

Facet Joint Injuries

Facet joint pain can occur if the car crash injures the facet joints that connect the vertebrae in the spine. This typically causes low back pain, inflammation, decreased range of motion and stiffness.  

These injuries can be treated with pain management and physical therapy to help rebuild the strength of the surrounding muscles and ligaments while the facet joints heal.

Soft Tissue Injury

Soft tissue injuries may cause back pain, tightness, pinching and muscle spasms. These injuries may also cause loss of normal movement and pain that worsens with activities such as lifting, bending or twisting.

Nerve Injury

Sciatica is a type of nerve pain that causes one-sided pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in the low back, buttock, leg and foot. It develops when a bulging or herniated disc compresses nerves in the lumbar spine.

How To Treat Back Pain Following A Car Accident

It is very highly recommended that you see a doctor for an evaluation if you are experiencing any back pain after a car accident. Many back injuries will resolve within a few weeks to months.  

Following a car accident, it is important to rest and recover. However, it is not recommended to remain immobilized for longer than a few days as this can slow down the healing process and increase pain and stiffness.

In order to begin the recovery process, your doctor may prescribe a treatment plan that will include the following:


Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen can help relieve pain, swelling and inflammation following an accident.  

A stronger anti-inflammatory medication or muscle relaxant may need to be prescribed if you are experiencing severe pain or muscle spasms.

Heat and Ice

Applying ice packs several times a day for the first few days following a car accident can help reduce pain, swelling and inflammation. A few days after the accident, applying heat packs can soothe and unknot tight and tense muscles.


A corticosteroid injection may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation around irritated nerve roots or inflamed soft tissues if you are suffering from a pinched nerve or inflammation in the spine. These injections provide temporary pain relief and allow the body time to heal.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is often recommended to help the body regain strength, range of motion and movement to the back and spine following an accident.

Physical Activity

It is important not to become sedentary following an accident. It is often recommended that light, low-impact exercises, such as daily walks and regular stretching, can help reduce pain and inflammation and strengthen muscles and joints.  

How Cuming & Gillespie LLP Can Help If You’ve Suffered Back Injuries From A Car Crash

The weeks following a car accident can be very stressful and challenging as you deal with insurance claims related to the loss of property and various medical appointments for any injuries that you may have sustained. Hiring an experienced and professional personal injury lawyer is the next step you should take to ensure that your rights are protected.  

If you have suffered a back injury resulting from a car accident, you may have the right to seek compensation for your injuries from the at-fault party. It is important to have an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side to help you receive the financial compensation you deserve.  

If you or a loved one have been involved in a motor vehicle accident or another serious accident and suffer from back injuries as a result of someone else’s negligence, the experienced personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP can help evaluate your specific case to determine whether you have a valid claim. It is important that you call us promptly so we can help you understand your rights and the potential to recover compensation for your injuries. For a free case evaluation, please contact our office online or at 403-571-0555 to make an appointment. We look forward to helping you obtain the compensation that you deserve.