How Does a Back or Neck Injury Occur During a Rear-End Collision?
Rear-end collisions stand apart from other types of car accidents because they often happen at low speeds. Although seat belts and airbag deployment reduce some passenger movement in a collision, especially for those in the front seat, a person’s neck and upper back still endure unnatural forces. When a rear-end crash occurs, bodies in the car move back and forth quickly during impact. This motion coupled with a body’s interaction with the seatback is a large part of why neck and back injuries occur.
Facet joints connect each vertebra in your spine, making you flexible so you can bend and twist. Many neck injuries occur because the facet joints collide with each other when the neck moves during an accident. The impact of a rear-end collision also causes your middle and lower back to move back and forth, which disrupts the natural curve of the spine and flattens them.
Types of Neck and Back Injuries from Rear-End Collisions
Rear-end collisions might result in a wide variety of back and neck injuries that vary based on the speed at which they occur. Some common injuries include:
- Whiplash is the most common injury associated with a rear-end collision, and whiplash injuries can range from mild to severe. When the head and neck move upon impact, the victim sustains soft tissue damage in the neck and sometimes the upper back.
- Spinal fractures are most likely to occur when a rear-end crash occurs at a high speed. Stress fractures might push vertebrae out of place, resulting in a condition called spondylolisthesis, wherein nerves and/or the spinal canal are compressed causing pain and numbness.
- Slipped discs, more formally referred to as herniated discs, occur when the impact of a rear-end collision causes the discs that provide cushioning between the vertebrae to shift out of place. This also results in pain and numbness.
- Spinal cord injuries can happen even when a rear-end crash occurs at low speeds. Small injuries to spinal processes and nerves might cause temporary paralysis that will hopefully heal with time, but sometimes the cord gets severed, leading to permanent total or partial paralysis.
Delayed Symptoms of Neck and Back Injuries
Seek medical attention as soon as possible after a rear-end collision. It’s a mistake to skip medical treatment for a couple of reasons.
First, medical documentation of your injuries provides evidence your attorney can use later on to prove an accident caused your neck and back injuries. Second, many symptoms of neck and back injuries do not show up for days or weeks after an accident – just because you feel okay, doesn’t mean you weren’t injured. Below are some symptoms of neck and back injuries that often do not show up immediately after a rear-end collision:
- Neck and shoulder stiffness
- Back pain
If you experience any of these symptoms after your accident, even if it’s days later, immediately visit your doctor. These symptoms indicate that you might have a neck or back injury, especially if you are suffering from more than one.
But (and, we can’t repeat this enough), even if you do not experience symptoms right away, you should still visit a doctor after any rear-end collision. Only a qualified doctor can tell you, for sure, whether and to what extent an accident injured your neck or back.