Spinal cord injuries can result from a variety of traumatic events, including car accidents, which are one of the leading causes. The severity and location of the injury determine its effects, which can range from minor motor or sensory impairments to complete paralysis.
Here are the key facts and considerations regarding spinal cord injury after car accidents:
- Spinal Cord Anatomy: The spinal cord is made up of nerves that transmit messages between the brain and the rest of the body. It’s divided into four sections: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral. Each section is responsible for different bodily functions and areas.
- Types of Injuries: Spinal cord injuries can be complete or incomplete. In a complete injury, there’s a total loss of sensation and muscle control below the level of the injury. In an incomplete injury, there’s some function below the level of the injury.
- Symptoms: Symptoms of a spinal cord injury might include loss of movement, sensation (including the ability to feel heat, cold, and touch), bowel or bladder control, exaggerated reflex activities or spasms, changes in sexual function, sensitivity, and fertility, pain or an intense stinging sensation, and difficulty breathing, coughing, or clearing secretions from the lungs.
- Emergency Symptoms: Some signs or symptoms might indicate a spinal cord injury after a car accident, such as extreme back pain or pressure in the neck, head, or back; weakness or paralysis in any part of the body; numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation in the hands, fingers, feet, or toes; loss of bladder or bowel control; difficulty with balance and walking; impaired breathing; or an oddly positioned or twisted neck or back.
- Immediate Treatment: After a car accident, it’s crucial to keep the person still to prevent further injury to the spinal cord. Emergency personnel typically immobilize the person’s spine with a rigid neck collar and a rigid carrying board, which they’ll use for transportation to the hospital.
- Long-term Treatment and Prognosis: Rehabilitation and physical therapy are common long-term treatments for spinal cord injury. The goal is to prevent secondary problems, such as deconditioning, bedsores, urinary infections, and breathing problems. Depending on the level of the injury, the individual might require assistive devices like wheelchairs or ventilators.
Common Types Of Spinal Injuries from Car Accidents
Car accidents can result in a range of spinal injuries, often due to the sudden impact and force exerted on the body during a collision. Some of the most common types of spinal injuries from car accidents include:
- Whiplash: This is one of the most common spinal injuries, especially in rear-end collisions. It happens when the head is suddenly and forcefully thrown back and forth, causing injury to the neck’s soft tissues. It can result in neck pain, stiffness, headaches, and even cognitive issues.
- Herniated Discs: The discs in your spine act as cushions between the bones. In a car accident, the force can cause these discs to rupture or shift out of place, leading to a herniated disc. This condition can cause pain, numbness, or weakness in an arm or leg.
- Spinal Fractures: These are breaks in any part of the spinal bone. They can be compression fractures (where the bone is crushed), burst fractures (where the bone is shattered), or fracture-dislocations (where there is a combination of a fracture and dislocation).
- Spinal Cord Injuries: These are some of the most serious injuries that can occur in a car accident. They can lead to partial or complete paralysis, depending on the severity and location of the injury.
- Spondylolisthesis: This is a condition where a bone in the spine slips out of place, often due to a stress fracture caused by the impact of a car accident. It can compress the nerves or spinal cord, leading to pain, numbness, or even difficulty walking.
- Spinal Stenosis: While this condition is usually caused by age-related wear and tear, a car accident can exacerbate it or accelerate its onset. It involves the narrowing of the spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine.
In any case of a car accident, immediate medical attention is required, even if the injuries seem minor at first. Some spinal injuries might not become apparent until a few hours, days, or even weeks after the accident.
How Are Spinal Injuries From Car Accidents Treated?
Spinal injuries from car accidents can be very serious and require immediate medical attention. The treatment will vary depending on the nature and extent of the injury. Here are some general steps in the treatment of spinal injuries:
- Emergency Care: At the accident scene, paramedics will immobilize the spine to prevent further injury. They might use a neck collar and a backboard.
- Hospital Assessment: In the hospital, doctors will perform a complete neurological exam and medical imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans to assess the extent of the spinal injury.
- Medication: In some cases, corticosteroids or other medications may be administered to reduce inflammation and swelling around the spinal cord.
- Surgery: If the spinal cord is compressed due to a fractured or dislocated vertebra, surgery might be necessary. The surgical procedures might involve removing fragments of bones, herniated disks, or foreign objects; fusing broken spinal bones or placing spinal braces; or repairing other damage.
- Rehabilitation: After the immediate threat is dealt with, a long-term rehabilitation program is often necessary. This program might involve physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other treatments to help the patient regain as much function as possible. The rehab team might consist of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, social workers, dietitians, and others.
- Assistive devices: Depending on the extent of the injury, the patient might need devices such as wheelchairs, braces, or ventilators.
- Coping and support: Psychological counseling for the patient and their family is an important part of treatment. A spinal injury can be a life-changing event, and it’s important to address the mental health aspects of such an injury.
- Chronic pain management: Many people with spinal injuries experience chronic pain. This can be managed with medications, physical therapy, psychological methods, or other treatments.
- Research and Experimental Treatments: There are ongoing research efforts to find new treatments for spinal cord injuries, including the use of stem cells, nerve transfers, and electrical stimulation devices. However, as of my knowledge cutoff in 2021, many of these are still experimental and not widely available.
Remember, every patient’s situation is unique, so treatment plans will vary based on the specifics of their condition. It’s important to work closely with a healthcare provider to create a treatment plan that is tailored to the individual’s needs.
Avoid Spinal Cord Injuries in Car Accidents
Preventing a spinal cord injury in a car accident involves many factors, including safe driving practices, vehicle safety features, and correct use of seat belts and child car seats. Here are some measures you can take:
- Safe Driving Practices:
- Avoid Distracted Driving: Don’t use your phone while driving. Even hands-free conversations can distract you.
- Don’t Drink and Drive: Alcohol impairs your driving skills and reaction time. If you plan to drink, arrange for a designated driver, use a taxi, or use a ride-sharing service.
- Drive at Safe Speeds: Higher speeds increase the risk of accidents and the severity of injuries. Always follow speed limits and adjust your speed according to road conditions.
- Seat Belts and Child Car Seats:
- Use Seat Belts Correctly: Wear the seat belt so that it fits snugly across your pelvis and rib cage, which are better able to withstand crash forces than other parts of your body. The shoulder belt should not be under your arm or behind your back.
- Use Appropriate Child Car Seats and Booster Seats: Children should be in a car seat or booster seat that is appropriate for their size and age, and the seat should be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Vehicle Safety Features:
- Buy a Safe Vehicle: Consider safety ratings when buying a car. Cars that have good crash-test ratings and safety features such as anti-lock brakes, traction control, and multiple airbags can reduce the risk of injury in a crash.
- Maintain Your Vehicle: Regular maintenance can prevent many accidents. Check your tires, brakes, lights, and other parts of your car regularly.
- Defensive Driving:
- Keep a Safe Distance: Always keep enough distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you to stop safely if necessary.
- Be Aware of Your Surroundings: Keep an eye on other vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists, and anticipate potential problems.
While you can’t completely eliminate the risk of a spinal cord injury in a car accident, these measures can significantly reduce your risk. Remember, the best way to survive an accident is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Need Legal Help! Contact Find The Lawyers today
If you have sustained a spinal cord injury due to a car accident that was another driver’s fault, you may be entitled to financial compensation. The amount of compensation you can receive will depend on the severity of your injuries, the cost of your medical care, and the impact your injuries have had on your life.
Contact a car accident lawyer at Find The Lawyers today or fill out a contact form online today to learn more about your legal options.