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Upper Back Pain After A Car Accident: What You Need To Know

March 5, 2024 by Steven M. Gursten

Suffering from upper back pain after a car accident?

Upper back pain after a car accident is most commonly caused by fractured vertebrae, herniated discs, dislocated ribs, shoulder injuries, muscle strains and sprains, also known as soft tissue injury, and nerve damage. You can recover compensation and economic damages for these injuries. An experienced car accident lawyer can help.

If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle crash and are suffering back pain, it is helpful to understand the symptoms, causes, and legal options for compensation. Seeking medical treatment to help you and consulting with a personal injury lawyer can help you receive the appropriate medical care and legal representation that you deserve. 

To find out how much your case may be worth, check out our Settlement Calculator

Understanding the upper back and its role in the body

The upper back, also known as the thoracic spine, consists of twelve vertebrae labeled T1 to T12. By connecting the cervical spine area (neck and shoulders) to our lumbar spine area (lower back), this region of the spine serves as a crucial support structure for our entire torso, providing stability and allowing for various movements. 

The upper back also protects vital organs such as the heart and lungs. Any damage to this area can lead to significant discomfort and pain.

Common injuries that cause upper back pain after a car accident

The most common injuries that cause upper back pain after a crash include: (1) fractured vertebrae, (2) herniated disks, (3) dislocated ribs, (4) rotator cuff tear, (5) shoulder fracture, and (6) muscle strains and sprains:

  • Fractured vertebrae: The impact of a automobile collision can cause compression fractures in the vertebrae of the upper back. Thoracic spine fractures are a common cause of upper back pain after a serious motor vehicle accident. These fractures occur when the vertebral bones are crushed or collapse under pressure, resulting in significant pain, limited mobility, nerve damage, and/or paralysis. In many cases, after a very painful six months to a year, most people make a full recovery, but depending on the severity of the injury and the complications involved, fractures can result in permanent pain and permanent impairment.
  • Herniated discs: The forces involved in a car wreck can cause the discs between the vertebrae in the upper back to rupture, protrude, herniate, or bulge. Herniated spinal discs can compress the spinal nerve roots and nerves, leading to pain, weakness in a person’s arms and legs, and numbness. If the herniation is severe enough, it can extrude, causing more serious injury, and even paralysis. Herniated discs after a car accident are the most common cause of spine surgery.  
  • Dislocated ribs: The force exerted on the upper back during an automobile crash can cause the ribs to become dislocated.
  • Muscle strains and sprains: The sudden jolt from a crash can cause soft tissue damage to the musculature around the upper back. These are most commonly seen as strain or sprain injuries to the connective tissues and ligaments in the upper back. This can result in limited mobility and pain.


If you’re experiencing any upper back pain after a car accident, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion are all signs that you have suffered an underlying injury. These conditions can become worse if you do not seek medical attention as soon as possible.  

Here are some specific upper back pain symptoms that are common after a trauma, such as a car crash:  

  • Pain and stiffness – This may range from a dull ache to sharp, shooting sensations, depending on the severity of the injury.
  • Limited range of motion – Individuals may experience difficulty in moving the affected area, such as turning the head or lifting the arms. This can significantly impact daily activities.
  • Numbness, tingling and/or weakness in the hands and arms
  • Headaches
  • Muscle spasms

Chest And Upper Back Pain After Car Accident

Impact with the steering wheel, an airbag or seatbelt can injure your ribs, sternum, heart or lungs and, thus, cause you to suffer upper back pain after a car accident. Seek medical attention as soon as possible because these injuries could result in permanent damage if they are left untreated. 

Neck And Upper Back Pain After Car Accident

Neck and upper back pain after a car accident frequently occurs with rear-end collisions. The force of the impact causes a person’s head to violently whip forward and back, putting extreme force on the vertebrae, muscles, and ligaments in the person’s upper spine. Pain and limited range of motion result.

Upper Middle Back Pain After Car Accident

The most common cause for upper middle back pain after a car accident is injury and trauma to a person’s neck area. The force and impact of the collision cause a person to be thrown forward and backward, resulting in both fractured and herniated discs as well as muscle strains and sprains.

Seeking medical treatment

If you experience upper back pain after a car accident, seeking prompt medical treatment is essential. A healthcare professional will be able to evaluate your condition, diagnose any underlying injuries, and recommend appropriate treatment options. 

It is important not to ignore or downplay the pain, as it can become more serious and can worsen over time. Many conditions that will get better with medical treatment can become permanent and lead to chronic pain and impairment if ignored.  

Treatment options for upper back pain will often  include:

  • Surgery: After conservative treatment such as physical therapy has been exhausted and does not provide relief, spine surgery may be necessary to address herniated discs or fractures.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help strengthen the muscles in the upper back and improve range of motion. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with long-term pain or limited mobility.
  • Pain medication: Depending on the severity of the pain, your healthcare provider may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers or prescribe stronger medications to manage the discomfort.

Can I sue for compensation?

When you suffer upper back pain after a car accident, you can bring a lawsuit against the insurance company of the at-fault driver to recover financial compensation for your pain and suffering. Depending on the PIP amount of No-Fault insurance coverage you have available, you may also be able to sue for additional medical expenses and lost wages. 

To recover a  settlement or trial verdict,  you will have to first prove that the at-fault driver who caused your accident was driving negligently. 

Under Michigan’s auto accident threshold law, you will also have to prove that your injuries constitute  a “serious impairment of body function,” which means that your injuries affected your ability to resume living your normal life that you had lived before the other driver injured you.

In the same lawsuit where you seek pain and suffering compensation, you may also be able to recover economic damages for your medical bills that exceed what is covered by No-Fault auto insurance. You may also be able to recover reimbursement for lost wages that exceed what is provided for under the auto No-Fault law. 

Reimbursement for medical bills and lost wages

If you’re a Michigan resident, then you may be able to recover auto No-Fault insurance benefits to help pay for your medical bills and lost wages when you have suffered upper back pain after a car accident. 

To receive these benefits, you must file an application for No-Fault benefits with the responsible auto insurance company within one (1) year of the crash that caused your injuries. Unfortunately, failure to file the application on time will forever disqualify you from applying for, recovering and/or suing for No-Fault benefits you would have otherwise been entitled to. 

No-Fault medical benefits will help you pay for doctor visits, diagnostic testing, surgeries and procedures, attendant care (which is also known as in-home nursing care), and transportation costs for going to your medical appointments.

No-Fault wage loss benefits provide a financial lifeline for crash victims whose injuries prevent them from returning to work. These benefits will help to reimburse you for the wages you have been unable to earn because of your injuries. 

Suffering from upper back pain after a car accident? Call Michigan Auto Law now!

If you’re suffering from upper back pain after a car accident and have questions about your lower back pain and other injuries, call Michigan Auto Law now (855) 960-3320 for a free consultation with one of our experienced car accident lawyers. There is no cost or obligation. You can also visit our contact page or use the chat feature on our website.

Michigan Auto Law is Michigan’s largest and most successful law firm that specializes exclusively in helping people who have been injured in auto accidents.

Our secret? Our attorneys deliberately handle fewer cases than other personal injury law firms.  This allows us to focus more time and attention on our cases.

Unlike other law firms, our attorneys are never too busy to promptly return phone calls and answer questions.

We have more than 2,000 5-Star reviews that reflect this care and attention to detail.

More importantly, this client-focused approach leads to better and faster settlements for our clients. Michigan Auto Law has recovered more million-dollar settlements and trial verdicts for motor vehicle accidents than any other lawyer or law firm in Michigan. We’ve also recovered the highest ever reported truck accident and car crash settlement in the state.

Call now so we can start making a real difference for you.

Upper Back Pain After A Car Accident: What You Need To Know

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