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Spine Injuries from an Auto Accident: Get the Basics

According to the National Spine Injuries Statistics Center, vehicle crashes are the leading cause of spinal cord injury for its enrollees. The most common vehicle in question is a car. Still, steamrollers, bulldozers, and other unclassified vehicles also contribute to spine injuries in the U.S. 

Driving is a natural part of everyday life for most people. And while the average trip to the grocery store will not end in tragedy, we do see car crash victims in our clinics every day. If you or a loved one were in a motor vehicle accident that resulted in spine injury, you are not alone. Spine injuries from a collision can be scary, but auto accident doctors are here to help with recovery and treatment. 

Common Spine Injuries from an Auto Accident


One of the most common auto accident injuries is whiplash. This injury is especially likely when a car crash victim is rear-ended. This injury gets its name from the whipping action that occurs when a hard impact jostles your body. If an auto accident causes your neck to snap back and forth suddenly, there is a good chance you will sustain whiplash.

Symptoms of whiplash include: 

  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Pain and stiffness in the neck
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Headaches originating at the base of the skull
  • Limited neck movement or loss of neck movement
  • Pain or tenderness in the shoulders or upper back
  • Feeling dizzy and or tired

It is important to note that whiplash symptoms do not always appear right away. It is not uncommon for car crash victims to experience whiplash symptoms days or weeks after a motor vehicle collision. Getting prompt medical attention can help you avoid further damage and recover as quickly as possible. 

Herniated Disc

Along your spine, discs cushion your vertebrae like natural shock absorbers. These discs have a hard exterior and a center that is soft like jelly. A herniated disc, also called a ruptured or bulging disc, can occur when the tough exterior cracks and the soft material at the center leaks through. The leaked tissue puts pressure on surrounding nerve roots and nerves, causing pain. 

Herniated discs can happen to anyone, and the condition is not always caused by an accident or injury. A herniated disc can occur naturally as a result of age or general wear and tear. But an auto accident can also cause a painful herniated disc.

Symptoms of a herniated disc include:

  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
  • A sharp pain that radiates from the lower back or shoulders to the arms or legs
  • Muscle weakness in and around the affected area

Not all patients with a herniated disc experience symptoms. But you should seek medical care right away if you recognize any of these symptoms after a car crash. 

Vertebral Fractures

Just like any other bone in your body, your vertebrae can fracture. Fractures along the spine can range from minor to severe, depending on your unique circumstance. While some fractures are minor and require little intervention, severe conditions can occur. 

Major spine trauma can include:

  • Burst fractures: which damage the spinal cord and can lead to paralysis
  • Flexion fractures: where the vertebra is torn apart
  • Vertebral compression fractures: (VCFs): cause the front of the vertebra to collapse while the back stays in position

Depending on your injuries, you might experience mild to severe pain after your auto accident. Fractures can cause pain that worsens the more you move around. In addition to sharp pain, you might also notice numbness, tingling, weakness, or bowel and bladder function issues.

Spine Injuries from an Accident: Diagnosis and Treatment

When you visit a spinal cord injury doctor, they will review your medical history and gather the details of your auto accident. They will also conduct tests to determine the nature and extent of your injuries. 

Tests might include:

  • X-ray
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans
  • Evoked potential testing – to test how fast nerve signals reach the brain

Once your doctor understands your injuries, they can develop a custom care plan that is right for you. Treatment for spinal injuries might include over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, chiropractic care, corticosteroid injections, or surgery. 

Each spinal cord injury is unique. Together, you and your doctor will develop a strategy for healing and recovery. The severity of the accident, your overall health, and your age are all factors in creating a custom care plan that brings relief. Some injuries resolve quickly with minimal intervention. Others require more extensive treatment and take longer to heal. Either way, an auto accident doctor will offer compassionate care every step of the way. 

Spine Injuries: An Auto Accident Injury Doctor Can Help

If you or a loved one were injured in an auto accident, Premier Injury Clinics of DFW can help. We offer free transportation for victims unable to get to our clinic on their own. Texas has one of the highest auto accident rates in the nation. Because we treat car crash victims every day, our highly skilled team understands what you are going through. 

Even if you are unsure whether you were injured in your recent crash, it is always recommended to get a professional evaluation. It is not uncommon for symptoms to appear days or weeks later and worsen as time goes by. A Dallas auto accident doctor can provide a professional diagnosis and create a custom treatment plan to get you back on your feet.

Accident Doctor FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What legal issues might arise after an auto accident spine injury?

Patients who suffer spine injuries after a car accident can face legal issues and financial challenges. If someone else’s negligence injured you, you might find yourself with a personal injury lawsuit. An auto accident doctor can help by giving a professional diagnosis, cooperating with your lawyer, and mapping out a clear plan for your recovery.

What is an auto accident doctor?

An auto accident doctor is a medical professional who has extensive experience with car crash-related injuries.  After a car accident, your doctor can help you assess your damages and create a treatment plan that focuses on relief and recovery.

When should I see an auto accident doctor?

If you were in a car crash, you should see an auto accident doctor as soon as possible. Some symptoms might not appear immediately, and delayed treatment can make your recovery time longer. After a collision, your body floods with adrenaline, and it isn’t always clear whether you are in pain. A medical professional can give you peace of mind by conducting tests that determine if you are injured and to what extent. 

Is spine injury serious?

An auto accident spine injury isn’t always serious, but it isn’t always obvious either. If you have a mild spine injury, it can get worse over time without professional treatment. If your back, neck, or spine is injured, you should seek professional help to be on the safe side and avoid further damage. 

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