How Whiplash and Back Pain are Connected
A whiplash injury occurs when your neck and head are forced suddenly backward and then forward.
This puts extreme stress and pressure on your cervical spine (neck).
Several things can cause whiplash, like contact sports injuries, slip and fall accidents, assault, bungee jumping, rollercoaster accidents, but it most commonly happens in car accidents, particularly rear-end accidents.
Any high-impact activity where extreme acceleration-deceleration forces could be applied to the cervical spine has the potential to cause whiplash.
The medical term for whiplash is cervical acceleration-deceleration syndrome.
It makes sense that whiplash can cause pain in your neck, but can it also cause pain in your spine?
In the article below, we will discuss whether or not whiplash can cause back pain.
Table of Contents
- The Symptoms of Whiplash
- How Whiplash Happens In A Car Accident
- How To Know If Whiplash Is Serious
- Does Whiplash Cause Back Pain?
- Symptoms of Whiplash In Your Low Back
- Treatment Options For Whiplash
- Contact Jefferson Spine and Injury
The Symptoms of Whiplash
The most obvious symptom of whiplash is neck pain. The pain you feel in your neck can range from a mild annoyance to severe, unbearable pain.
However, symptoms will vary wildly among individuals. You can also have stiffness in your neck, a limited range of motion, neck instability, shoulder pain, and headache.
You may also experience numbness, weakness, or tingling that radiates in your shoulder and move down your arm.
The symptoms you experience from a whiplash accident can be long-lasting and hard to diagnose. These symptoms are called whiplash-associated disorders.
A few more symptoms include:
- Tightness or spasms of the muscles in the neck or upper back
- Pain in the neck muscles
- Headache, and dizziness
- Difficulty swallowing and chewing and hoarseness (could indicate injury to the esophagus and larynx)
- Abnormal sensations such as burning or tingling
- Shoulder pain
- Upper back pain
- Pain at the base of the skull
- Sleep disturbances
Your whiplash symptoms could cause you to have reduced physical or mental abilities, resulting in increased social isolation.
Severe whiplash injuries can damage your intervertebral joints, discs, ligaments, nerves in your neck, and cervical muscles.
Fortunately, with prompt and proper treatment within 24 hours of your accident, most people who experience whiplash will make a complete recovery.
Untreated whiplash can cause degenerative disc disease, facet joint injuries, damage to your spinal cord, and long-lasting soft tissue injuries.
How Whiplash Happens In A Car Accident
How you sustain whiplash in a car accident will vary depending on several factors, including where the collision occurred and the speed of the crash.
As we mentioned earlier, whiplash injuries are usually sustained during rear-end collision.
This is generally how a rear-end collision causes whiplash.
First, your car gets hit from behind, causing your sear to push against your back. That loads your spine with forces that compress your cervical spine upward against your head.
Your torso that is in contact with your seat continues to accelerate forward, but your head that isn't in contact with your seat doesn't.
This causes your cervical spines natural C-shape to unnaturally become an S-shape.
This abnormal compression and force can damage your intervertebral discs, facet joints, and other structures of your neck.
Now your head could slam backward into your accelerating seat, causing damage to the soft tissues at the front of your neck as your neck extends backward.
Now your head bounces off the seat and accelerates forward. Your seat belt will restrain your body, and your neck will flex rapidly as your head whips forward.
Soft tissues in the back of your neck can be injured during this motion.
The severity of your car crash is usually a good indicator of the severity of your whiplash injury.
But, don't think that just because you were in a minor, low-speed collision that you will get off injury-free.
You could still get whiplash even if your car is left virtually undamaged because the forces that weren't absorbed by the exterior of your vehicle we transferred in through your seat, causing an even worse whiplash injury.
Whiplash has also been known to occur in accidents less than 10mph.
How To Know If Whiplash Is Serious
If you think you're suffering from whiplash after a car accident, no matter how serious it is, you should always see an experienced motor vehicle accident chiropractor to be examined.
But, there are a few signs you should pay close attention to that could indicate that you have a severe case of whiplash.
- Severe pain
- Instability of your neck
- Pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness radiating into your shoulder, arm, or hand
- Problems balancing or with coordination
- Mental issues like increased irritability, depression, trouble sleeping, inability to focus, or drastic changes in your behavior
Seeking treatment as soon as you can for whiplash is crucial. Waiting too long to receive treatment can make your injury worse causing chronic pain, and it can lessen the effectiveness of the treatment.
You may have also suffered a brain injury, another reason to seek treatment right away.
Does Whiplash Cause Back Pain?
In addition to neck pain, it is not uncommon for whiplash to cause pain in your upper back.
But, whiplash can also lead to lower back pain, far away from your cervical spine.
Whiplash in your low back is caused by your torso's sudden movement forward, backward, or to the side.
The injury is very similar to the whiplash you can get in your neck, but it instead involves the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of your lower back.
Again, car accidents are the most common cause of whiplash to the low back as well.
The violent movements that occur during collisions not only affect your neck as we described above, but they can force your lower back beyond its normal range of motion resulting in stretched or torn tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
Several small joints in your low back can also become injured during the movement.
Symptoms of Whiplash In Your Low Back
If you have whiplash in your lower back, you will most likely feel pain, swelling, and stiffness in the affected area.
Your low back may also be very tender to touch, and you can experience muscle spasms making movement painful and more difficult.
Treatment Options For Whiplash
The best treatment option for whiplash is chiropractic care.
Even if you feel fine after a car accident, it is still a good idea to see a chiropractor to be sure you haven't suffered an injury.
Sometimes the whiplash symptoms can take days or weeks to develop, so it's in your best interest to see a chiropractor right away so they can begin treatment before the injury gets worse.
Your chiropractor understands the pain that comes along with whiplash, so they will approach your injury with care.
Before beginning full-blown chiropractic treatments, your chiropractor may help you stretch out your neck or have you do ice therapy at home for a few days to reduce swelling.
Once your neck is ready for treatment, they will use spinal manipulations to realign your cervical spine.
This will help eliminate the added stress placed on your neck and allow your neck to begin the healing process so you can finally have some relief.
And, chiropractic care is an all-natural remedy that will rid you of your pain without prescription painkillers, OTC pain medication, muscle relaxants or invasive surgeries.
You NEVER want to experience untreated whiplash symptoms.
Contact Jefferson Spine and Injury
Whiplash can cause extreme pain in the back and neck.
If you've recently been in a car accident, and you are experiencing neck pain or back pain and think you might have suffered a car accident injury, you should see a doctor right away.
The sooner you receive treatment, the sooner you will be pain-free, and the less likely you are to develop chronic, long-term conditions after your accident.
If you don't have a chiropractor, you should contact the team at Jefferson Spine and Injury so they can relieve you of your neck pain.
The chiropractors at Jefferson Spine and Injury have years of experience treating accident injury victims and back and neck injuries including whiplash, and they will do all they can to get you feeling your best.
Jefferson Spine and Injury also offers Free Consultations so they can perform a full physical exam and do a review of your medical history so they can properly diagnose your injuries and design a treatment plan based on your needs.
If you're ready to find relief from your pain, click the button below to schedule your Free Consultation with Jefferson Spine and Injury.