Motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) are a common cause of spinal injuries. Depending on the accident, injuries and their related symptoms can range from mild to severe. The three most common injuries are:

Whiplash Injuries after MVA

Whiplash injuries are the least severe injuries that will mentioned in this post. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be taken seriously. When the spine is jolted during an accident, the soft tissues can be strained or sprained, and the following symptoms can present:

  • Spine pain
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Arm pain
  • Headache
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Ringing in the ears

These symptoms can range in severity. In all scenarios, an orthopedic spine specialist should be consulted. Once effectively treated, symptoms can decrease in as little as a few days.


Illustration 1- Whiplash injuries damage the soft tissues of the spine

Vertebral Fractures after MVA

Sometimes, high impact collisions can exert enough force to fracture a vertebra, or multiple vertebrae. When this happens, there’s a chance the spinal cord can be pinched, thus, immediate medical attention should be sought. Diagnosis consists of:

  1. A physical examination. A specialist performs complete orthopedic and neurologic exams.
  2. Medical imaging studies. X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans show the fracture(s). When visualized, severity can be determined.

fractured spine

Illustration 2- X-ray of a fractured vertebra

Treatment of the fracture depends on severity. In mild-moderate cases, immobilization gives the fracture time to fully heal. In severe cases, a minimally invasive or open surgical procedure might be necessary.

Herniated Discs after MVA

Vertebral discs lie between adjacent vertebrae and act as shock absorbers—minimizing the load placed on the bones. Forceful impact during an MVA can cause a disc to slip. This injury is referred to as a herniated disc. When a disc herniates, it protrudes into the vertebral canal and pinches the spinal cord, resulting in any or any combination of the following:

  • Pain
  • Weakness
  • Numbness

herniated disc

Illustration 3- A herniated disc pinches the spinal cord

Symptom relief only occurs when the injury is properly diagnosed and treated by a specialist. Like a fractured vertebra, diagnosis consists of the performance of a complete physical examination and viewing medical imaging studies. Treatment can be non-surgical or minimally invasive depending on the severity of the injury and symptoms.

Seeking Treatment after MVA

Individuals with spine pain who have been involved in an MVA should arrange an appointment with an orthopedic spine specialist. Once their injury has been properly diagnosed, an effective treatment plan will be prescribed. Regardless of the injury, a complete recovery is entirely possible when in the right hands.

The spine specialists at New Jersey Spinal Medicine and Surgery treat conditions of the cervical and lumbar spine using both non-surgical and surgical modalities.  New Jersey Spinal Medicine and Surgery is led by Dr. Dante Implicito and Dr. John Koerner. Both physicians have extensive training and experience in the utilization of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery techniques as well as non-surgical techniques.

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