What’s Causing Neck & Lower Back Pain After a Car Accident?

Serious car accidents can be terrifying. One moment, you are driving safely, and the next, you are in pain with no clue what happened. Typically, after a severe injury, you will receive immediate medical attention to evaluate your condition.

But what happens when that evaluation comes up short? Even after receiving immediate medical assessment and treatment, some of your injuries may go undiagnosed. This is particularly common with neck and back injuries. 

If you are experiencing unexplained neck or lower back pain after a car accident, one of the following might be an explanation for why it’s happening.

Cracked Ribs

One of the more surprising causes of lower back pain can be cracked ribs. When you are in a serious accident, your seat belt and airbag help keep you from being severely injured. But they can also cause less significant injuries.

Cracked ribs are a common example of seat belt and airbag injuries. And if you suffered other serious injuries, there is a good chance that you won’t even notice the less significant pain of cracked ribs.

However, as the pain from other injuries subsides, the pain from cracked ribs can begin to flare up, especially at night while you are trying to sleep. Unlike broken ribs, cracked ribs don’t usually represent a threat to your life. Instead, they just hurt and are difficult to identify without X-rays.

Disk Injuries

Your spine is made up primarily of two things: vertebrae and disks. Vertebrae are bones that support your head, neck, and upper torso. Disks are pieces of cartilage that separate the vertebrae and prevent them from rubbing together.

In a car accident, your spine can experience severe pressure when the car suddenly stops. This pressure can bruise or even crush those disks. This damage can have long-term consequences but may not be immediately apparent.

A damaged or herniated disk no longer provides proper separation between the vertebrae. This can cause them to rub together, weakening your spinal cord. Over time, you may lose mobility or suffer pain from vertebrae grinding.

That pain is likely to start a few weeks after the accident if it isn’t diagnosed right away. If you feel pain or hear any clicking, contact a physician immediately.

Nerve Damage

One of the biggest dangers of back or neck pain involves nerve damage. This often occurs when you suffer any type of damage to the cervical spine.

The cervical spine consists of the seven bones near your neck. The nerves that control the rest of your body run from your brain through the cervical spine and then branch off to other parts of the body. Any damage to your cervical spine can injure these nerve bundles.

While these bones support your head and neck, they are still reasonably delicate. The sudden impact of a car accident can crack, shatter, or dislodge one of these bones. This type of damage can cause the nerves running through the area to be pinched or even severed.

In the best-case scenario, nerve damage can lead to some numbness. In the worst-case scenario, it can lead to paralysis. Numbness is likely to result in at least partial loss of function if left untreated for decades.

Joint Injuries

The spinal cord is a complex portion of your skeletal system. Each bone is relatively small, yet it bears the weight of almost your entire body. 

Damage to any of the joints that make up the spinal cord can be devastating. Each joint is bearing significant weight. When one is damaged, the others have to do even more work. If even a single joint becomes too damaged to work properly, you will likely experience pain whenever you walk or stand up.

As you get older and your muscles and bones get weaker, this could make it impossible for you to walk much. There is no way to identify a joint injury without a medical evaluation. However, the pain of a joint injury should be severe enough to cause you to seek medical attention immediately.


Finally, whiplash is one of the most well-known neck or back injuries resulting from car accidents. It’s most common in rear-end car crashes.

Whiplash occurs when your head is thrown violently forward and then immediately backward (or vice versa). This sudden motion and reversal of motion put extreme pressure on the soft tissue that supports your head and neck.

At a minimum, you are likely to strain the tendons and muscles that support your neck. In the worst-case scenario, you may tear some of that soft tissue. Typically, tears will not heal naturally and can only be repaired with surgery. However, even surgery may not fully restore the strength of that soft tissue.

Another problem with whiplash is that symptoms rarely show up immediately. This isn’t the effect of adrenaline but rather intrinsic to the parts of the body that suffer damage. Unless you know that you have suffered whiplash, you are likely to use your head and neck normally. This places additional stress on an already damaged part of the body, which can cause otherwise light damage to worsen and become significantly more serious over time.

Finally, if you suspect whiplash, you might also want to consult with a specialist. The same type of rapid movement that causes whiplash can also cause a concussion as your brain slams into the inside of your skull.

See a Doctor After Being Injured in a Car Accident

Lower back and neck injuries are common in car accidents. Unfortunately, they are often difficult to identify. The best way to protect yourself is to visit a doctor and get a follow-up evaluation about a week after an accident, especially if you feel unexplained pain. Getting prompt medical treatment can also help with any subsequent legal claims you might have.

A Phoenix Car Accident Lawyer Can Help With Your Right-of-Way Collision 

To learn more about Arizona traffic laws or to discuss your accident, contact a Phoenix car accident lawyer. Your lawyer will analyze your case and discuss your rights. Next, your lawyer will investigate your accident to determine who is liable and gather evidence to support your case. Contact our Phoenix car accident attorneys at Curiel & Runion Car Accident & Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free case review today.

Curiel & Runion Car Accident & Personal Injury Lawyers
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Phoenix, AZ 85014

(602) 595-5559

Curiel & Runion Personal Injury Lawyers
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Tucson, AZ 85711
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Curiel & Runion Personal Injury Lawyers
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Albuquerque, NM 87102
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