- Dr. Eric Carlsen
Common Back Injuries Caused by Car Accidents
Every year, millions of people are injured in car accidents. The most common injuries affect the neck and back, especially the lower back. Some of the most common conditions that could be causing your pain include:
Often, lower back pain after a car accident occurs because the discs of the spine have sustained damage. Pain caused by damage to the discs is known as discogenic pain.
Discogenic pain can affect any part of the spine, but the lumbar spine (lower back) is particularly susceptible. When the discs are damaged, you'll likely experience intense pain, along with difficulty moving and stabilizing yourself.
Lumbar sprains occur when the ligaments of the back are stretched or torn. This can occur when the body sustains sudden trauma -- for example if you were hit by or crashed into another car.
Spinal stenosis occurs when the bone channel that holds the spinal cord and spinal nerves narrow. Normally, this is a gradual condition. But it can occur suddenly after severe trauma, such as a car accident. When trauma occurs, a ruptured disc or bone fragment can invade the spinal canal and put pressure on the spinal nerves or spinal cord.
Disc herniation occurs when the inner filling of the discs of the spine protrudes through the outer layer. The actual rupture, typically, is not painful. But, when the protruding material comes in contact with spinal nerves, it can cause serious pain.
Treat your own back pain
If you're dealing with any of these conditions, there are several different treatments you can try on your own to relieve your pain. Some of the most effective approaches include:
Immediately after your pain starts, it's important to take some time to rest. Staying in bed can help you find some temporary relief and give your body a chance to start repairing the damage. At the same time, though, it's important to avoid resting for too long. Generally speaking, you shouldn't stay in bed for more than a couple of days. If you're sedentary for too long, you'll likely end up making your pain (and the damage that's causing it) worse.
Avoid Long Periods of Sitting
It's also important to minimize the amount of time you spend sitting. Sitting can actually put more strain on your back and make the pain worse.
Avoid long car rides if you can and try to get up from your desk at work every 20-30 minutes to walk around and stretch. This will help keep blood flowing properly, which will encourage faster healing.
Use Heat and Ice
Alternating between ice and heat is great for most types of pain, including lower back pain.
Ice helps minimize swelling and inflammation. It's also an effective form of pain control.
Heat, on the other hand, helps increase blood flow to the painful area. Increased blood flow means you're getting more of the oxygen and nutrients needed to promote health and recovery. Heat can also minimize tension and stiffness after a long day.
Try Over-the-Counter Medications
It's not great to use over-the-counter medications on a consistent basis. When used in excess, they can irritate your stomach lining and cause kidney issues.
But, if you're dealing with severe pain and need some quick relief, it's fine to use these medications every once in a while. Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and Naproxen are good ones to keep on hand for days when you're in a lot of pain.
Wear a Back Brace
A back brace can provide support for your lower back to relieve pain and improve your ability to function.
Back braces provide compression to improve blood flow, too, which can lead to faster healing. They also gently compress the abdomen, which helps relieve pressure on the lower back.
Get professional treatment
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that involves the insertion of small, thin needles into specific points of the body. These needles can help restore proper energy flow, which, in turn, can minimize pain and promote healing.
Visit a chiropractor or physical therapist
Chiropractors and physical therapists can manually adjust your spine or train your muscles to realign and eliminate nerve compression that could be causing your back pain. Many people experience relief from regular adjustments and exercise.
Get a Massage
A massage is another beneficial tool that can help relieve tension and eliminate back pain. Massages can also help you relax and improve your sleep quality. This, in turn, can lead to faster healing and less pain.
Some massage therapists specialize in helping people with low back pain. Working with such a massage therapist can help you see greater results from your treatment.
Get Your "Om" On
Yoga can help you stretch and strengthen the muscles of the back, as well as the rest of the body. This helps minimize tension and improves your ability to move properly and without pain.
Look for gentle yoga classes that focus on deep stretching. When you're dealing with lower back pain, an intense Vinyasa class might not be the best option.
Adjust Your Diet
Finally, you may also want to make some adjustments to your diet. Eating well can help reduce inflammation and provide you with the nutrients you need for healthy bones and muscles.
The following are some of the best foods to include in your diet:
Fruits and vegetables, wild-caught fish and seafood, dark chocolate, extra-virgin olive oi,l full-fat dairy products, eggs.
It's also important to limit your consumption of highly processed, potentially inflammatory foods. This includes fast food, processed oils, and high-sugar foods.
As you can see, there are lots of different treatments you can try if you're experiencing lower back pain after a car accident.