Common Spinal Injuries Resulting from Car Accidents

Common Spinal Injuries Resulting from Car Accidents

Whether it’s contact sports or slip-and-fall incidents, many events may cause spinal injuries. Car accidents happen to be one of the leading culprits behind spinal trauma in the United States. In fact, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, around 39.9% of all spine injuries arise during an auto accident of some kind.

If you have a spinal injury from car accident impact, seeing an expert doctor could make a world of difference in your diagnosis and recovery. Below, Dr. Grigory Goldberg, a spine specialist in New Jersey, shares more about how these medical professionals treat accident-related injuries to help people restore their quality of life.

What Is the Most Common Car Accident Spine Injury?

Car accidents cause a wide variety of spinal injuries, but the following are more prevalent:

Herniated Discs

Between each of your vertebrae is a soft, gel-like disc, a protective cushioning of sorts. It will absorb impact and protect your vertebrae from rubbing together. However, during car accidents, the sheer force of that impact sometimes slips these discs out of place, known as herniated discs.

Symptoms include numbness and shooting pains in the back or neck. Thankfully, orthopedic spine surgeons can often resolve herniated discs through disc replacement.

Spinal Fractures

Spinal fractures are partial or total breaks in one of the vertebrae. The direct impact of a car accident can shatter bone matter, especially in smaller bones like the cervical vertebrae. When this happens, bone fragments may pinch surrounding nerves, causing symptoms like pain and tingling.


Whiplash is the most common spine injury associated with motor vehicle accidents. A 2005 study revealed that 83% of patients involved in collisions experienced whiplash. By definition, whiplash is a cervical spine injury caused by the neck snapping forward and then backward in a rapid motion.

Spinal Stenosis

Another common spinal injury from car accident impact is spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal canal that occurs naturally or with trauma. An accident-related spine injury can lead to stenosis by pushing the vertebrae out of place. It causes radiating pain.

How To Tell If You Have a Spinal Cord Injury From a Car Accident

Spinal cord injuries present with many different symptoms. If you experience any of these injury symptoms, seek medical treatment as soon as possible:

  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities 
  • Shooting pain in the back, neck, arms, or legs
  • Trouble walking
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Severe and persistent headaches

An evaluation with an orthopedic surgeon can confirm a spine injury, but seeing emergency doctors immediately after the accident is essential for ruling out urgent medical needs.

Preventing Spine Injuries From Car Accidents

There are certain precautions you can take that will reduce the risk of spinal injury from car accident impact. The following are some good precautions that protect you from injuring yourself in an automobile collision:

  • Always wear a seatbelt, even when driving short distances.
  • Never text while driving.
  • Abide by all posted speed limits.
  • Never drive under the influence.
  • Keep children in proper car seats and booster seats.

Following these tips cannot prevent all car accidents, but they add an extra layer of protection for yourself and your loved ones while on the road.

Have you recently incurred a spinal injury from car accident trauma? Contact Dr. Grigory Goldberg online to book an appointment. Our doctors accept most insurance plans, including workers’ compensation, no-fault, and PIP (personal injury protection), and same-day appointments may be available.

Dr. Goldberg offers a range of treatments for auto accidents, including endoscopic spine surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if a spinal cord injury is left untreated?

If left untreated, a spinal cord injury may progress to cause chronic pain, limited range of motion, and, in some cases, paralysis. Mild injuries like whiplash tend to alleviate with rest and medication.

What are delayed symptoms after a car accident?

The delayed symptoms after a car accident may appear several days or weeks later. This is a delayed response from the tissues that are more inflamed. Always get a prompt evaluation to rule out serious injuries after an accident!

Can spine injuries heal on their own?

Typically, spine injuries cannot heal on their own. In most cases, spinal trauma requires some type of intervention, whether non-invasive or surgical.

What is the life expectancy after a spinal injury?

Life expectancy after a spinal injury from car accidents or other situations depends on the severity of your injury and age. A 2006 study in the National Library of Medicine assessed patients across a 50-year span, finding that people’s average lifespans after spine injury were from 25 to 65 years.

About The Author

Picture of Dr. Grigory Goldberg, MD

Dr. Grigory Goldberg, MD

Dr. Grigory Goldberg, MD is a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in spine surgery. He is an expert in all aspects of spine surgery, including degenerative diseases of the cervical and lumbar spine, tumors, fractures, infections, and revision of the back and neck. He has extensive experience in the field of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery and Motion Preserving Spine Surgery. Dr. Goldberg helped develop and pioneered the most advanced procedures in the field of spine surgery and has invented and hold patents for a number of medical devices.

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