Spinal Injuries and Auto Accidents

Auto accidents are notorious for causing spinal injuries. According to one recent study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, more than 40 percent of the spinal injuries reported each year are the result of an auto accident.

The reason is simple: While many automotive safety innovations, such as seat belts and airbags, reduce car accident fatalities, many of these devices work by shifting the strain away from the chest and head toward the spine. The spine is a delicate organ, so the slightest stress can cause a serious injury.

If you suffered a spinal injury as the result of an auto accident, the best thing to do is consult a medical professional at once. Each case is different, and no victim has the exact same symptoms as somebody else. The following four spinal injuries and their symptoms are the most common for which you should watch:

1. Whiplash

Whiplash is often caused by rear-end collisions, as the impact forces your head backward and then forward in rapid succession. Headrests usually prevent front-end collisions from causing whiplash, but it’s still possible.  

Symptoms tend to manifest within 24 hours of the accident, and include neck stiffness and pain, headaches centered around the base of your skull, blurred vision, dizziness, and unexplained fatigue. Patients may also have a hard time concentrating and experience ringing in their ears, insomnia, irritability, and/or memory problems.

2. Spinal Fractures

Compression fractures in the mid and lower back are another common auto accident-related spinal injury. They are generally caused by the force of impact propelling the upper body forward while a seat belt holds the lower body in place. Accident victims should not be moved if a spinal fracture is suspected, as moving the body without a neck collar and backboard often makes the injury worse.

Moderate to severe back pain is the most common complaint among spinal fracture patients, which may or may not be accompanied by numbness, weakness, tingling, and the loss of bowel or bladder control.

3. Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is caused by a vertebra shifting out of place as a result of a stress fracture in the surrounding bone. Some patients with this condition remain asymptomatic for their entire lives, while others develop symptoms only years after the original auto accident.

When symptoms are present, they include numbness, pain, weakness in the affected areas (generally the leg or buttock), and the loss of bowel and/or bladder control.  

4. Disc Herniation

A spinal disc is considered herniated when its soft center penetrates a crack in the disc’s exterior and irritates the surrounding nerves. The discs often absorb much of the shock of an auto accident, making a herniated disc a common auto accident injury.

Again, it is possible to experience a herniated disc with no symptoms. If symptoms are present, they usually include pain, numbness, weakness, and tingling in the affected area(s).

Parting Thoughts

Most of the above conditions share a list of symptoms. If you experience any numbness, tingling, weakness, or neck pain after an auto accident, you should seek medical attention right away. If you are concerned about the cost, there is nothing wrong with pursuing a lawsuit for back pain after a car crash. The driver who hurt you may be responsible for your injuries even if they were caused by a low-speed collision.


  1. https://michaelgleibermd.com/news/auto-accidents-dangerous-spine/
  2. https://sinicropispine.com/5-common-injuries-resulting-car-accident/