What to Do if You Experience Back Pain After a Car Accident?


A lot can happen to your body during a car accident. Even relatively minor fender benders can leave you in pain for days, weeks, months, or even years. For this reason, it’s important to know what to do if you experience back pain after a car accident.

It’s important to seek professional medical care within a certain time frame after a car accident, even if you’re not in pain. If you are in pain, there are several things you can do that will help you relieve that pain in safe, natural ways, provided you aren’t suffering from a major injury. 

Types of Back Pain After Car Accident

Since the back is a complex system of muscles, joints, and bones, there are many injuries that can happen from a car accident. The extent, type, and severity of the injury will determine the proper care you’ll need. Some back pain will only require home remedies for relief, while other injuries will require help from a personal injury chiropractor or a physician.

So let’s take a quick look at some of the most common causes of back pain after a car accident.

1. Herniated Discs

When the spine experiences trauma, it can often result in a herniated or bulging disc. The discs are gel-like sacs that sit between the spinal vertebrae. When they are compressed or damaged, they can bulge out of the spine and press on nerves, causing pain.

2. Back Sprain or Strain

Back sprains and strains are incredibly common after a car accident. They cause persistent pain due to the stretching and stressing of ligaments and tendons in the back.

4. Fractured Vertebrae

Broken or fractured vertebrae can cause a whole host of problems, including severe pain, hunched posture, and long-term spinal issues.

5. Other Possible Issues

The trauma of a car accident can also cause issues that relate to degenerative diseases. A car accident can accelerate these issues in some cases, or make them more apparent in others. These include:

  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Sciatica

How Long Does Back Pain From a Car Accident Last?

Anyone suffering from pain, especially as debilitating as back pain, wants to know how long it will last. Unfortunately, there is no one answer to this question. How long back pain lasts after a car accident depends on the nature and severity of the injury. It also depends on the health of the individual and what steps they take to properly heal after the accident. Still, there are some averages that we can look at to give you an idea of how long the pain typically lasts.

Herniated Discs

In most cases, pain from a herniated disc lasts around six to eight weeks without treatment. If the disc injury is severe, it could last longer. If it’s minor, the pain could recede in a shorter time frame.

Back Sprain or Strain

Sprains and strains from a car accident typically last around two to three weeks. These soft tissue injuries are most apparent when you move, and everyday activities may cause you pain. Sprains and strains may also cause painful spasms that can be debilitating.

Fractured Vertebrae

There are many different kinds of vertebrae fractures. Some may require surgery while others can heal on their own. Usually, you’re looking at three to four months of healing time with fractured vertebrae. However, if you have osteoporosis, the healing time could be much greater.

Other Spinal Issues

If a car accident has worsened an existing condition, such as degenerative disc disease or spinal osteoporosis, you may only benefit from seeking professional treatment. These types of issues don’t usually go away on their own, but they can be managed with the right treatment protocols.

In fact, all the injuries on this list can be helped by the right treatment. Healing time is often reduced, and pain relief comes quicker when you determine the best treatment for your back injury. 

Back Pain After Car Accident: What To Do?

If you don’t feel pain immediately after a car accident, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t injured. If you’re lucky, days and weeks will pass with no back or neck pain. Unfortunately, this isn’t usually the case. Back pain from a car accident can come on slowly, which is why it’s best to seek medical care from a chiropractor or physician soon after the accident.

Not only will this help you determine if you are injured, but it can also help ensure that any injuries you did receive as a result of the car accident are covered by insurance. Of course, if you feel severe pain, difficulty breathing, vision problems, or you lose consciousness, you should seek immediate medical care.

Where to Go For Back Pain Treatment After Car Accident?

Many minor car accidents don’t require emergency medical care. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t benefit from seeing a professional after a car accident. Especially if you have back pain. A wait-and-see approach to back pain after a car accident is never a good idea. In fact, it could make things worse, causing you to develop long-term issues. This is why it’s a good idea to see a chiropractor for back pain after a car accident.

There are many benefits to seeing a chiropractor after an auto injury that go above and beyond pain relief. Chiropractors are experts in the treatment of the spine and musculoskeletal system, but they also often help people lose weight, eat better, and reduce pre-existing pain. And an increasing number of studies show how effective chiropractic care really is.

Chiropractic Care for Herniated Discs

One study documented the treatment of MRI-affirmed herniated discs in 27 patients. All of the patients had symptoms and all were treated with chiropractic care that included spinal manipulation, flexion-distraction, and physical therapy.

80% of the patients had a positive outcome. 63% saw a reduction or complete resorption of the herniated disc. 78% of study participants were able to return to work after the study. 

Chiropractic Care for Back and Neck Pain

This study of 369 patients with back or neck pain is an excellent example of the efficacy of chiropractic care. These patients had either never seen a chiropractor before or hadn’t seen one in six months. Following their treatment, each patient was given a questionnaire to rate their overall pain relief and satisfaction.

Most patients rated their satisfaction high with chiropractic care, especially in regards to pain relief. Patients presenting with moderate to severe pain rated their relief highest. Also, patients who were only seeing a chiropractor (as opposed to those seeing other doctors as well) rated their treatment highly.

Getting Back to Work with Chiropractic Care

Another study sought to determine which treatment was best for those suffering from back sprains or strains. The study’s authors compared treatment by chiropractic doctors, medical doctors, and osteopathic doctors.

The results found that those who were treated by chiropractic doctors were out of work for 2.3 fewer days than medical doctors and 3.8 fewer days than osteopathic doctors. The study suggests that those seeing chiropractors for sprains and strains are able to get back to work quicker than those seeing MDs or osteopathic doctors. 

Back Pain After Car Accident: Conclusion

Chiropractors can help treat car accident injuries in a number of different ways. Each treatment varies depending on the injury and the patient. How a chiropractor treats lower back pain from a car accident will differ from how he or she treats whiplash from a car accident. But, all chiropractic care is safe, non-invasive, and drug free. At Better Health Chiropractic and Physical Rehab, we’ve treated thousands of car accident back injuries using a combination of chiropractic care, physical therapy, and massage therapy.

So if you’ve been in a car accident, don’t delay. The sooner you see a chiropractor after a car accident, the better off you are. Studies show that delaying your visit could hinder your recovery and may even prevent insurance from covering your care.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment or ask any questions you may have about our treatment options.


The portrait of Dr. Brent Wells.

Dr. Brent Wells

About the Author

Dr. Brent Wells is an actively practicing chiropractic physician that has personally led over 10,000 Alaskans to more active, pain-free lifestyles since 1998. He is the founder of Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Anchorage and Juneau where he brings a progressive and highly innovative approach to chiropractic care. Dr. Wells continues to further his education with ongoing studies in spine conditions, neurology, physical rehabilitation, biomechanics, occupational ergonomics, whiplash, and brain injury traumatology. He is also a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians.

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