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Spinal Cord and Back Injuries Caused by Motor Vehicle Accidents

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Every year, over 2 million people are injured in automobile accidents. Some of the most common and often overlooked injuries are to the spinal cord, back and shoulder.

Every year, over 2 million people are injured in automobile accidents. Some of the most common and often overlooked injuries are to the spinal cord, back and shoulder. Injuries such as herniated discs, contusions, lower back sprains and rotator cuffs are just a few of the serious injuries that can occur. Unfortunately, many of these accident victims do not seek medical help immediately and, when improperly diagnosed and treated, this may lead to a lifetime of medical troubles.

In general, there are three major types of automobile accidents, rear end collision, side impact collision and head on collision. Being involved in a rear end collision is the most common accident in the United States and usually involves vehicles traveling at lower speeds. Even at low speeds, severe back, neck and shoulder injuries can occur.

Injuries Caused by Rear End Collisions
One of the most common injuries is a herniated disc. When an accident occurs, small bones connected to the spine, called discs, violently shift out of place. This is known as a herniated, bulging or slipped disc. This misalignment puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the spinal column causing a myriad of symptoms such as extreme leg, back and shoulder pain and numbness in the extremities. In a high impact crash, the lower discs are typically the ones that are affected, but if the neck snaps forward suddenly, the cervical vertebrae can be damaged as well.

Back strains and back sprains can also occur after a rear end collision. A strain is an injury to the muscles or tendons in the back, caused by the body being twisted irregularly during the accident. If the accident is severe, there is the potential for a partial or complete muscle or tendon tear as well. A sprain, on the other hand, is an injury to the ligaments that support the back. Symptoms include pain, bruising and swelling.

Another type of injury that occurs during a rear end collision is a torn rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is comprised of four muscles and tendons that help stabilize your shoulder. Signs and symptoms of a torn or damaged rotator cuff are pain on the tops or sides of the shoulders, limited motion, a grinding sound when moving the shoulder and swelling. This injury often occurs as the arms are tensed to brace for the impact. As the arms lock, the forces of the impact are transferred and absorbed mainly by the shoulders and back. If the shoulder impact is severe, a dislocated shoulder can occur and may require surgery.

Another common injury is a contusion. A contusion is the medical word for a bruise and describes all injuries where there is a broken blood vessel. If a large amount of blood pools underneath the skin, it causes tremendous pain and pressure. A bone contusion occurs when that constant pressure is applied to a bone, such as the vertebrae. The pain is usually very severe and can last weeks and months.

Injuries Caused by Side Impact Collisions
If you are involved in a side impact collision, chances are there was not much warning. A side impact collision usually involves cars traveling at much higher speeds. These sudden and jarring forces can produce any of the above injuries but usually in a much more severe form. Since the side of a car is less protected, injuries to the driver and passengers are often more devastating. For their safety, victims of a side impact collision should never be moved from the accident until paramedics arrive. Herniated discs and contusions can easily become cervical and lumbar fractures and partial or complete paralysis can occur.

Injuries Caused by a Head On Collision
Of all the motor vehicle accidents, none is more devastating or deadly than head on collisions. Automobiles involved in these collisions are usually traveling at very high speeds and often victims never got a chance to apply the breaks. Compression fractures of the spine often occur. As the bones of the spinal column compress, they can fracture. This creates immediate pain and numbness as the bone fragments press on the spinal column. If not treated properly, compression fractures can cause permanent disability.

If you or a loved one is involved in an automobile accident, it is important that you get medical help immediately. Many of these back, neck and shoulder injuries can only be diagnosed by a medical expert and an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Once you have been properly diagnosed, treatment can begin and may save you months and even years of discomfort. If you have been injured in an automobile accident, it is important to speak to a personal injury attorney to discuss your situation and possible legal recourse.

Source: Brodie & Friedman, P.A.

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