There are many serious injuries that can be the result of experiencing a car accident. One of the most serious injuries that can occur from a car accident is a spinal cord injury. Not only is this type of injury extremely painful, but it can also be debilitating, affecting the quality of life for an extended period of time, possibly for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, spinal cord injuries may be more common than one would realize. The impact and trauma associated with a car accident can cause injuries to the neck and back, including the sensitive spinal cord.
Injuries to the spinal cord should be taken seriously. Seek medical attention right away if you think you may have suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident. Delaying treatment even a little bit could significantly affect your overall long-term health. Because this is such a tedious injury, it requires expert care and treatment. Car accident doctors with knowledge and skill in the treatment of spinal cord injuries know how best to approach and treat these types of injuries for the benefit of the patient’s health and long-term quality of life.
How Spinal Cord Injuries Occur
Car accidents are one of the leading causes of spinal cord injuries in the United States. In fact, they make up 40% of all spinal cord injury cases each year, with falls in second making up 31% of all reported spinal cord injuries. Because of the high impact and force applied to the body during a car crash, car crashes are among the top causes of spinal cord injuries. When one vehicle collides with another vehicle or a fixed object, the weight of impact is usually more than the body can bear. The body absorbs the shock of the crash. In more severe crashes, the body may even hit the dashboard, windshield, or be completely ejected from the car. Such an impact significantly increases the chances of spinal cord injuries as the body is bent at extreme angles or runs the risk of penetration from the vehicle or from flying debris. Exposure to any one of these situations could very well result in a spinal cord injury that will require medical attention, oftentimes emergency care.
Prevention of spinal cord injuries is the ultimate goal. While there is nothing you can do to limit the shock of a car accident, there is something you can do to attempt to prevent car accidents altogether.
Attentive drivers have a better chance of avoiding potential accidents that could lead to damaging spinal cord injuries. When in a car, be sure to take these steps to avoid car accident injuries at all costs:
- Wear your seatbelt – the number one rule when entering a car should be to buckle up. Seat belts, while not preventing every car accident injury, can help prevent more major injuries, such as spinal cord injuries.
- Do the speed limit – the more you stay within the speed limit, the better control you have over your car, hopefully giving yourself enough reaction time to avoid car accidents
- Drive defensively – always be looking ahead to potential hazards, seeking to avoid them at all costs
- Don’t text and drive – focus on the road at all times
- Follow safe driving rules – the rules of the road are there for your protection. The more you follow driving rules and regulations, the more you are able to protect yourself from accidents and injuries while driving.
Symptoms of a Spinal Cord Injury
While the most severe spinal cord injuries will be noticeable right away, not every spinal cord injury is as extreme. Some, specifically delayed car accident injuries, may not be noticed until days after an accident has occurred. Therefore, symptoms of spinal cord injuries can vary drastically from person to person.
Some common symptoms of a potential spinal cord injury may include:
- Neck pain or stiffness in the neck and shoulders
- Extreme fatigue
- Muscle spasms
- Headache that begins at the base of the skull
- Numbness or tingling of the arms, hands, legs, or feet – pins and needles sensation
- Pain radiating through the legs, buttocks, and back
If you experience any of these symptoms that could suggest a spinal cord injury, contact a doctor right away to seek medical treatment.
Spinal Cord Emergencies
Certain spinal injuries require emergency attention. These types of injuries usually require medical attention directly after a car accident. If you should experience any of these symptoms, it is imperative that you ask for transport to the nearest doctor or emergency room from the scene of the accident.
- Intense pressure in the back, neck, and head
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Weakness in any part of the body and/or paralysis
- No sensation in the hands, fingers, feet, or toes
- Difficulty standing or walking
In certain instances, you may sustain a serious injury and still not realize it until hours after the accident. If you or someone you know are experiencing any of these symptoms after a car accident, head to the nearest emergency room right away. If you have a severe spinal injury that the emergency room isn’t equipped to handle, they may transport you to the nearest hospital that is able to handle traumatic spinal cord injuries, order adequate testing, or perform spinal surgery if necessary.
These types of emergency spinal cord injuries are much more serious and can therefore result in more permanent effects. The goal of a spinal cord doctor dealing with a serious spinal cord injury is to try to prevent as much damage as possible to avoid paralysis.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
All spinal cord injuries should be considered serious, but the level of seriousness will vary depending on the type of injury. There are various types of spinal cord injuries that will require different treatment methods. Some different types of spinal cord injuries could include:
The vertebrae in your body are bone and can fracture or break. Fractures that are mild could heal on their own without medical intervention, while more severe breaks may require surgery to repair. The main concern with fractured vertebrae is that they will often pinch or compress against the spinal cord leading to a condition known as spondylolisthesis.
Between each vertebra is a jelly-like substance known as a disc. This disc helps absorb shock and keeps vertebrae from rubbing against one another. In a car accident, this disc can rupture or tear, causing a herniated disc. The leaking fluid from a ruptured disc will leak out into the surrounding areas, putting pressure on the nearby nerves, which can be extremely painful.
A bulging disc is one that is out of place. These discs can be forced out of place by the force of a car accident. In this instance, the disc does not herniate but becomes dislocated, creating a bulge in the spine. Over time, bulging discs will usually become herniated discs.
A very common injury for those involved in a car crash in whiplash.
Of all the spinal cord injuries, this is the one that is most likely to occur, especially in the event of a rear-ended car crash. Millions of people suffer from whiplash every year. The sudden impact of being hit from behind sends the neck and back flying forward and then slams the body back into the seat. This movement will often damage soft tissue, tendons, muscles, and ligaments around the neck, shoulders, and spine and can be extremely uncomfortable and painful. Thankfully, in most cases, whiplash will heal over time with rest and pain management.
Immediate Treatment of Spinal Cord Injuries
There is no current method of medical treatment that will reverse spinal cord damage. However, scientists are continually working on new treatment options to improve nerve function after suffering from a spinal cord injury. Until such time, doctors work to prevent further injury and help those affected by spinal cord injuries return to as normal of a life as possible. In an emergency situation, immediate treatment of the spinal cord injury will take place. This will include immobilizing the spine to prevent further damage, checking for stable breathing, preventing shock, and avoiding any other complications.
You may be transferred to spinal centers with a team of neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, psychologists, medical specialists, and other medical professionals who specialize in spinal cord care.
For less severe spinal cord injuries that don’t require emergency care, getting to the root cause of spinal cord pain is the goal. An initial evaluation is important to determine the level of severity of a spinal cord injury to determine the right course of treatment. During the evaluation, doctors will order imaging testing to be done to accurately diagnose the root cause of a spinal cord injury. Testing could include x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or other forms of testing that will give doctors an accurate picture of what injuries were sustained in order to provide the right treatment course. Some treatment options that may be recommended for the treatment of spinal cord injuries include the following.
After a spinal cord injury, there can be increased inflammation of the joints, which can cause significant pain and discomfort. Anti-inflammatory medications prescribed by your doctor can aid in reducing inflammation and swelling. Steroid injections are another option that can help reduce inflammation in the affected regions. These medications will only work to temporarily relieve your pain while your doctors seek to address the root cause of spinal pain.
An injury to the spinal cord, whether mild or more severe, will most likely affect mobility and strength. A physical therapist’s job is to work with you to regain strength lost after an injury, as well as provide exercises and stretches that will improve mobility and aid in your recovery process. Physical therapists provide a customized treatment plan that addresses your injury and helps you work toward rehabilitation.
For more severe spinal cord injuries, surgery may be required.
If you have suffered a spinal fracture, surgery might be a must to remove bone fragments. In an instance of a herniated disc, surgery may also be required to repair the disc or stabilize the spine.
The Many Benefits of Working with a Doctor Experienced in Accident-Related Injuries
An injury to the spinal cord can be a very serious condition. For this reason, it is key to find a doctor who is not only experienced in working with spinal cord injuries, but also in accident-related injuries, to ensure they can provide the very best care on both fronts. While all doctors are trained to handle medical emergencies, some of the most important benefits can come from finding an experienced doctor in accident-related injuries. Car accidents can result in a variety of injuries, so it is imperative to rely on a doctor who understands the repercussions of car accident injuries. For instance, doctors in this field are extremely knowledgeable about treatments and can provide a multidisciplinary approach to medical care and rehabilitation.
They have experience diagnosing these types of injuries and the special circumstances that come with them, such as pain management. Patients that work with doctors who are experts in their field usually experience increased recovery times and an overall higher level of satisfaction in their recuperation process. Doctors at AICA in Jonesboro are top-notch in their field of expertise, having had significant experience in working with accident-related injuries. The team of medical professionals at AICA works together to provide you with the highest quality of treatment care so you can worry less about your injury and more about your recovery.
If you or someone you love has been in a car accident and suffered a spinal cord injury, receive quality care at AICA Jonesboro. Whether you need to see an orthopedic doctor, neurologist, physical therapist, or other specialized physicians, you can find all the services required at AICA. For more information about our services or to schedule an appointment, call us today and start your journey to healing.