Back Pain After Car Accidents: Symptoms & Treatment


Have you experienced back pain from a car accident? Three million people in the U.S. are injured in car accidents every year, and many of these injuries can lead to chronic pain long after the crash.

In this post, we're going to look at some common back injuries after car accidents, and how you might be able to get relief. Here's what we're going to cover:

  • Causes of back pain after car accidents
  • Why it's important to see a chiropractor even if you went to the ER.
  • Chiropractic treatment for back pain from car accidents

Causes of Back Pain After Car Accidents

The forces involved in any motor vehicle collision, even one at slow speeds, can cause an injury. Some of the injuries mentioned here are very painful and obvious. Others are subtle and could even be missed by an ER doctor.


While most people hear whiplash and think about the neck, it's an injury that can cause back pain as well, especially if it goes untreated. Whiplash is caused by the jerking motion of the head after a collision. We often see whiplash cases from people who have been rear-ended.

Symptoms of whiplash include neck pain and back pain, along with numbness, tingling and difficulty moving your head.

Did you know that even a fender bender of only 6 mph can cause structural damage to ligaments in the neck?Ligament damage does not always produce pain. But ligament damage does decrease stability in the spine and can lead to early onset of Degenerative Arthritis (aka Osteoarthritis). It is very important to have a proper assessment following any car crash.


The force of a car accident can cause fractures in the vertebrae in your back. Sometimes this occurs because the seatbelt holds half of your body tighter than the other. In this case, your torso might move forward quickly while your hips stay in place.

Another common spinal fracture from car accidents is a compression fracture. This break is caused when a squeezing force is put on your spine. Along with back pain, a fracture can cause weakness and pain with breathing or movement.

Fractures may have mild to severe symptoms. Even if your pain is mild, it is extremely important to verify whether or not there is any damage to your vertebrae.

Ruptured/Herniated Discs

The discs in your spine act as shock absorbers, but sometimes the force of an auto collision is enough to move those discs out of place or rupture them.

In some cases, you might feel weakness, numbness, pins and needles, and/or a burning sensation in one or both of your legs. If untreated, disc problems can lead to long-term, chronic pain.


While we're on the topic of compressed nerves, sciatica from car accidents is often caused by the situation mentioned above, when a displaced disc allows the sciatic nerve to be compressed. This leads to back pain, as well as shooting pain down one leg that may be accompanied by numbness or tingling.

Underlying Back Injuries

While the injuries we mentioned above can be caused directly by trauma from a car accident, there are a host of other underlying problems that can be exacerbated by car accidents. These are often long-term conditions such as:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Facet arthrosis
  • Pre-existing pathology

Why You Should See a Chiropractor Even if You Went to the ER

There are two reasons. One is medical, one is legal and both of them are important.

After a car accident, many people go to the emergency room, and after they're released they think there must be nothing wrong with them. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Many times the ER only checks whether there is any brain bleeding or fracture. While it is extremely important to rule out life-threatening injuries immediately, many of the injuries that can lead to both acute and chronic pain are not evaluated.

A chiropractor will take the time to discover in detail how an auto accident has affected your body. This could prevent a lifetime of pain.

The second reason is legal. Insurance companies are always looking to pay the minimum when you're injured in an accident. They might even hire a doctor who will understate the severity of your injury. It is extremely important to have your injuries properly diagnosed and documented and make sure you receive the proper care. Visiting a chiropractor after you've been in an accident will ensure that insurance companies can't take advantage of you.

Chiropractic Treatment for Back Pain from Car Accidents

The problem with traditional medicine is that it often focuses only on treating the symptoms. If your back hurts after a car accident, the issue isn't that your back hurts. It's that something is causing your back to hurt. Chiropractic care is designed to find and treat those underlying causes.

When the force of an auto accident affects your spine, it usually moves your spine out of its natural alignment. That's what causes the pinched nerves, sprain strain, inflammation, and/or other structural damage that results in your pain.

Through chiropractic adjustments, a chiropractor moves your spine back to its normal alignment so that your body can naturally heal. Adjustments relieve pressure on muscles, ligaments, joints and nerves, giving you long-lasting pain relief and freedom of movement.

In addition, chiropractic adjustments lead to a reduction in inflammation, which also leads to less pain.

Schedule an Appointment with Dr. Leach

If you're experiencing back pain after a car accident and are living in the Denver area, Greenwood Village Chiropractor can help. Dr. Leach has treated many people who have suffered auto accidents, and he's ready to give you long-lasting pain relief. Contact us to schedule an appointment today.

Car Accident Statistics in the U.S. | Driver Knowledge

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