Even though the vast majority of vehicle accidents result in only minor injuries or property damage, that is not always the case. Often, vehicle accidents cause various types of spinal cord injuries.
A spinal cord injury can have devastating results on a victim. These injuries can affect a person’s day-to-day life and even require victims to need ongoing medical care for the rest of their lives. Here, we want to discuss the various types of spinal cord injuries that can occur as a result of vehicle accidents. These injuries can range from relatively minor injuries where a victim makes a full recovery to severe injuries that lead to complete paralysis.
Vehicle Accidents are a Leading Cause of Spinal Injuries
When we look at data available from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), we can see that there are around 18,000 new spinal cord injuries that occur each year across this country. When examining a breakdown of the most common causes of spinal cord injuries since 2015, we can see that vehicle accidents are the main contributors. During that time frame, vehicle accidents were responsible for 38.2% of all spinal cord injuries.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries Caused by Vehicle Accidents
As we examine the types of spinal cord injuries caused by vehicle accidents, we want to begin with the least severe – whiplash.
- Whiplash. Whiplash is the most common spinal injury that occurs as a result of a vehicle accident. This type of injury can occur anytime a person’s body experiences an abrupt stop caused by a vehicle collision. This abrupt stop can cause the head and neck to whip forward and backward rapidly, often stretching soft tissue, tendons, and muscles in the upper back and neck.
- Herniated or ruptured discs. The spine is composed of several vertebrae, which are bony casings that protect the spinal column. In between these vertebrae are jelly-filled discs that keep the vertebrae from rubbing together. However, vehicle accidents can cause these discs to shift, tear, or rupture. If this happens, a person can experience a herniated or ruptured disc. Symptoms of these injuries include numbness and radiating pain throughout the body.
- Spinal fractures. The severity of a vehicle accident could lead to the body being jerked swiftly in one direction and then back in the other direction. This can cause a person to experience an injury where a vertebra is fractured, and then shifts or places pressure on the spinal column. Symptoms of these injuries include pain and numbness throughout the body, bladder control problems, and more.
- Spinal cord injuries. Injuries to the actual spinal cord are the most devastating type of injury that can occur in a vehicle accident. Even though the spine can repair itself, doctors and scientists have not determined a way to repair the spinal cord itself. Spinal cord injuries often lead to complete or incomplete levels of paralysis throughout the body from the point of the injury and below.
- Facet joint injuries. Facet joints are in the spine and act as a hinge between each vertebra. Unfortunately, these self-lubricating joints are often injured when a vehicle accident occurs. This could result in victims needing physical therapy, chiropractic care, facet injections, or other procedures to help alleviate the pain.
- Spinal stenosis. Even though spinal stenosis is not actually caused by a vehicle accident, this is an underlying condition that is often asymptomatic that could become symptomatic as a result of a vehicle accident.