brown and black clipboard with white spinal cord print manual

Spinal injuries can be life-threatening and cause serious, disabling trauma. Injuries to the spine are both frightening and hard to understand. The majority happen due to car accidents, both minor and severe. Let’s look at the most common spine injuries, their frequency, their symptoms, and complications. 

Whiplash Injuries

Whiplash is a common spinal injury that usually occurs in rear-end accidents. The mechanism behind whiplash is the rapid deceleration and acceleration of the body (particularly the neck and upper thoracic spine) that jars the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, causing pain and limitation of movement. Usually, whiplash is associated with the neck or cervical spine, but it is common to see damage to the upper back as well. 

The injury to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments can have a direct effect on the spine. Recovery from whiplash can take six months to two years, depending on the case. Usually, analgesics and rest are prescribed, but many patients are unable to work. 

Emotional distress also can be triggered after a whiplash accident. In a limited number of cases, the patient may develop post-traumatic stress disorder and require professional help.

Herniated Disks

This is a very common spinal injury, with over three million Americans affected. Herniated disks can occur anywhere along the spine’s 33 vertebrae. The discs are used to cushion the vertebrae from rubbing against each other. After an accident, some of the gel that makes up the disc may ooze out of a crack and enter the spinal canal. Since the vertebrae are no longer cushioned, as the nerves pass through, pressure is exerted on them, causing symptoms. Symptoms are directly linked to the extent of herniation.

Slight discomfort may gradually worsen over time, causing severe pain and restricted movement. A few of the most common symptoms are as follows:

  • Leg, foot, arm, or back pain can occur, depending on the affected area.
  • Reflexes that are exaggerated
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Feelings of burning in the affected area
  • Pins and needles sensations
  • Hand and foot numbness
  • Stiff neck

In many cases, the symptoms may be treated conservatively with pain medication and rest. However, with time, the degree of herniation may worsen, causing more significant symptoms and making it harder to do ordinary tasks. Surgery is indicated in some cases. 

Fractured Vertebrae

The vertebrae make up the vertebral column, and within this structure, the spinal nerve is protected. However, due to trauma, spinal vertebrae may fracture. When this happens, the individual experiences pain when moving or walking, the degree of which is almost wholly dependent on the extent of the injury.

Treatment may be conservative. A brace is often used to provide support, and this immobilization may be used for 12 weeks. However, if healing does not occur within three months, surgery may be needed. On some occasions, surgery is used when the bones are out of alignment. 


This condition occurs when a fractured vertebra slips forward over the one beneath it. When it does this, it can put pressure on a nerve and may cause leg or back pain. Otherwise, symptoms are few. Although there are congenital or degenerative types of spondylolistheses, the traumatic form is most often associated with a car accident. Conservative measures such as physical therapy and rest are often used. Surgery may be advocated if the condition causes significant pain.

Spinal Cord Injuries

A spinal cord injury is the most devastating. It cannot be repaired by conventional methods. The severity depends on the level of the injury since the deficits are below the site of the trauma. If a person’s injury is at the cervical level, everything below that point will be affected. In many cases, the person is unable to perform needed functions such as talking, breathing, or moving. Many individuals with a cervical spinal cord injury require 24-hour care. Other spinal cord injuries follow the same path but with modification. 

Some other injuries cause paralysis or paresis since the nerves that tell the muscles to move are not communicating. When this happens, the individual may need assistive devices that help them function. 

Facet Joint Injuries

The facet joints are found on each vertebra, allowing the person to bend and twist. These are important, and without them, body movement is limited. These joints lubricate themselves and can be traumatized in a car accident. When this happens, a physician may order injections into the facet joint, physical or ablation therapy, and chiropractic treatments. The various therapies are covered if a lawsuit is filed.

Spinal Injury Lawsuit

When a person’s spinal cord is injured, they may suffer significant limitations or be bedridden. This causes a serious financial strain on the family. If someone else’s negligence caused the injury, a lawsuit can be filed against the at-fault party. New York has no-fault insurance where an injured party uses their own coverage. However, there are basic requirements to go outside of no-fault insurance. Spinal injuries usually do such harm that filing a claim is not a problem. Your personal injury lawyer will be able to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.