Back injuries are among the most common injuries people suffer after a car accident. Continued back pain and discomfort in the weeks following a crash can leave many people wondering how long it will take to finally recover. The answer largely depends on the type of injury you've suffered and the extent of the damage.
Back Injuries After a Car Accident
The back is composed of a complex combination of muscles, ligaments, tissues, tendons, cartilage, and bone. When a car crash occurs, the force of impact can throw your body backward or forwards, causing muscles, ligaments, and tendons to twist or tear. The impact can also push the discs in your spine out of alignment and break or fracture the spinal cord bones. These injuries can cause debilitating pain, a reduction in or loss of mobility, and give rise to other medical issues, such as nerve damage.
Common back injuries and recovery times
Back Strain. This injury occurs when the muscles and tendons are twisted, pulled, or torn. Back strain symptoms include increased pain when moving, cramping or spasms, difficulty walking, bending, or even standing straight. Most people recover from back strain within 3-4 weeks.
Back Sprain. Back sprain occurs when a ligament has been overstretched or torn. Similar to back strain, symptoms of back sprain include pain while moving, cramping or spasms, and mobility difficulties. It usually takes about four weeks to recover, although it may take a few months for some.
Whiplash. Although whiplash is most often associated with neck pain, it can also cause upper back pain. During a car accident, whiplash occurs when the head or body is jerked backward and then forward, like a whip. The forceful movement causes the ligaments in the neck and back to become overstretched. Recovery from whiplash can take about six weeks.
Herniated discs. A herniated disc (also known as a slipped or ruptured disc) occurs when the car crash's impact pushes the center of the disc through its outer layer (the annulus fibrosis). This displacement may cause pressure on the spinal nerves, causing severe pain. The problem typically resolves within 4 to 6 weeks, although some people may feel better within a few days. A minority of people may require surgery to fix the problem.
Compression fractures. These injuries are tiny breaks or cracks in the spine. It may take two to three months for the bones to heal fully. If you have osteoporosis, recovery may take up to a year.