Personal Injury after an accident

Why are Spinal Injuries So Common in Motor Vehicle Accidents?

Everyone knows that serious injuries can accompany motor vehicle accidents. It’s less common knowledge that car accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injury in the U.S. 

The spinal cord is your body’s control system. Even a minor injury can result in a long-term, life-altering decline in physical function. 

Knowing the most common types of spinal injuries, how they occur, and how to respond in the aftermath of an accident can help you reduce your risk and act promptly to receive assistance when you need it. 

The Role of the Spinal Cord

Many people don’t realize that the spinal cord is an extension of the brain. At the base of the skull, the brain stem extends into a thick bundle of nerves that runs down the entire back.

The bones of the spine are called vertebrae, and they exist to protect this sensitive and vital group of nerves. The nerves run through the center of each vertebra and branch out from the sides of each bone. From there, they send and receive messages from bones, muscles, and organs throughout the body.

Surrounding the vertebrae is a complex system of tissues that holds the bones in the correct location. These tissues make sure the nerves are placed correctly to carry out their functions. 

Types of Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries can have a wide range of consequences. The sudden impact of a car accident means an increased likelihood of sustaining the following common types of injuries:

Fractured Vertebrae 

In the worst cases, fractured vertebrae can result in immediate and permanent full-body paralysis. This is most common when the spinal cord is severed or otherwise receives serious trauma. 

Even moderate fractures can cause long-term pain that can increase over time. Reduced function from a fracture in one area puts increased stress on other areas of the spine. This stress can lead to chronic pain, spinal misalignment, and reduced mobility. 

Herniated Discs

A herniated disc occurs when the tissue cushioning the vertebrae is damaged. When this happens, the bones of the spine can become compacted, leading to reduced mobility and chronic back pain. 

Herniated discs put stress on the rest of the spinal column, resulting in disc degeneration. It’s common to need spinal surgery years after an initial injury to manage the subsequent chronic pain. 


Whiplash occurs when the neck is suddenly jerked back and forth by a sudden movement. It is notorious for its onset some time after a car accident, as the effects may not be immediately felt. 

Symptoms of whiplash can include the following:

  • Stiffness and pain in the neck
  • Pain in the upper back and shoulder
  • Headache
  • Limited mobility
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Memory and concentration issues
  • Depression
  • Sleep issues

Injuries like whiplash don’t just affect you physically; they can impact your emotions as well because the nervous system is involved. Injuries to the nervous system can cause dysregulation and impact both mental and physical health.

Don’t Delay Treatment

If you’ve been in a car accident and you suspect you’ve received a spinal cord injury, it’s of utmost importance to seek medical attention immediately. Even minor pain should not be overlooked. 

Increased Injury

It’s common in the aftermath of an accident to dismiss minor pain. This can be a big mistake. Slight pain can be an indication of a big problem. If it’s not diagnosed and treated promptly, a minor injury can worsen without treatment. 

Lack of Compensation

When you seek medical attention after a car accident, you establish a paper trail proving that the accident was the initial cause of injury.

Some injuries, like a herniated disk, can have major long-term consequences. These can include needing surgery long after the initial event. Receiving medical attention promptly establishes that the accident was the cause of any injury. 

Without this documentation, you may find yourself unable to seek compensation for medical bills or other negative consequences, like loss of work and reduced quality of life. When it comes to a motor vehicle accident, it always pays to put your health first. Contact our personal injury attorneys today.