Car accidents can cause all kinds of injuries. Some injuries are minor, such as sore muscles, but others can be serious, like broken bones. Spinal cord injuries are fairly common motor vehicle accident injuries, especially after a more serious car wreck.
In fact, motor vehicle accidents cause 39.3% of spinal cord injuries (SCI). This type of injury occurs when there is a severe and sudden blow to the spine. An injury to the spine can occur at any level from the top of the neck to the bottom of the back.
Some car accident injuries, like back and neck injuries, are more serious and debilitating than others, but many require victims to seek medical attention immediately from a car accident doctor.
At Medical Clinics of New York City, we have accident doctors that know what to look for in crash victims and how to treat their underlying injuries. Our goal is to help accident victims regain mobility, flexibility and function to the best of their abilities. They also understand the documentation needs for the victim’s auto insurance company or for personal injury protection claims.
The Importance of the Spinal Cord
The spinal cord is crucial for your body to function correctly. It begins at the base of the brain and consists of nerves that eventually exist between different levels of the spine.
These nerves are the communication between the brain and the rest of the body, and they control movement, sensation, and bodily functions. If there is damage to the cord itself or the nerves as they leave the spine, the body will not function as it should.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
Most medical doctors place spinal cord injuries into two categories: Complete and incomplete. A complete SCI means that there is no function, such as movement and sensory, beneath the injured spinal level.
An incomplete injury means that the patient has some function below the level of injury. An injury can occur due to a direct force to the spinal cord or indirectly from a fractured vertebra or herniated disc.
The following are examples of the range of spinal cord injuries:
Paralysis is the most serious spinal cord injury, and it is what many people think of when they hear of this type of injury. This occurs when the force was severe enough to damage the nerves and cells at a particular spinal level.
This cuts off the communication between the nerves and the brain, which results in no movement and no sensory feeling.
Paralysis is more debilitating the further up the spinal cord the injury occurs. When there is a complete SCI in the cervical spine, which is the neck area, the person is a quadriplegic, also known as a tetraplegic, which means there is a loss of function in most of the body.
If the injury occurs lower, the patient is a paraplegic, as only the lower portion of the body experiences paralysis.
If a car accident causes a spinal vertebra to break, this can affect the spinal cord. Fractures can be more minor, such as a compressed fracture, or they can be more serious, such as a dislocation or burst fractures.
The more serious ones can cause instability and result in injury to the spinal cord.
Spondylolisthesis occurs when a vertebra moves out of position and slips onto the one below it. This occurs most often in the lower spine. This makes the area unstable, and it can put pressure on the spinal cord, affecting feeling and function below the area of injury.
There are discs located in between each vertebra. They absorb shock to protect the associated spinal bones. An accident can cause a disc to slip out between the vertebrae. This may place pressure on the spinal cord at that level.
Spinal stenosis from a car accident occurs due to a number of reasons. It may occur due to a dislocated or fractured vertebra, from a herniated disc or tissue swelling from the trauma.
Stenosis means that there is a narrowing of the spinal canal, which can affect the nerves of the spinal cord. Spinal stenosis occurs more frequently in the lower spine, although it can also affect the upper spine.
Signs and Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injuries
Because spinal cord injuries vary in severity, the signs and symptoms vary as well. With complete paralysis, the patient will experience a loss of movement, feeling and control of the bladder and bowel.
Incomplete and indirect spinal cord injuries may have symptoms such as:
- Back or neck pain
- Numbness and tingling in the extremities
- Exaggerated reflexes
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain or stinging sensation
- Changes in sexual sensitivity or function
- Muscle weakness
- Balance difficulties
Medical Treatment for Injuries after a Car Crash
The personal injury doctor may talk to you about your symptoms, review medical records from your primary care doctor, and use a variety of tools to diagnose neurological issues. Via nerve conduction tests, electromyography tests, X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and others, treatment recommendation for the most effective outcome can occur.
The specific treatment for a SCI will vary depending on the location and severity of the injury. A paralysis injury will require highly intensive treatment and ongoing care and rehabilitation. If there is a fractured vertebra, treatment often depends on the type of fracture.
For more minor fractures, the doctor may place the patient in a brace to immobilize the area and allow for healing. More serious fractures may require surgery. The doctor removes pieces of broken vertebrae to prevent them from damaging the spinal cord.
For injuries that cause pain and symptoms but do not pose harm to the spinal cord, more conservative treatments may be adequate. For disc herniation, spondylolisthesis and spinal stenosis from a car accident, an auto accident doctor may recommend pain management via medication, immobilization, rest, and ice.
There may be additional therapies that are helpful, such as chiropractic and physical therapy.
Seek Treatment for Injuries Right Away
Not all spinal cord injuries are apparent right away. It is important for car accident victims to see an experienced doctor, even if they do not have any symptoms. Our car accident doctors at Medical Clinics of New York City can perform the necessary tests to determine if you have a SCI or other injury.
If so, we can recommend a treatment plan, including referral to pain management specialists, that will manage pain and symptoms and prevent the problem from getting worse. We can also work with your primary care doctors, health insurance company, or personal injury attorney, and refer you to any other necessary specialists.
We accept no-fault insurance, PIP (personal injury protection), workers’ compensation, medical liens and other health insurance plans.
Contact us today to set up an appointment. Same-day appointments may be available.