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Back Pain After Car Accident: What To Do & Treatment Options

Back Pain After Car Accident: What You Need To Know

Though upper, middle and lower back pain after a car accident is common, it may be the result of a serious injury such as a fracture, herniation, spinal cord damage, pinched nerves, sprains or strains. Though pain may seem manageable, seeking prompt medical attention is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment.

In order to make the fastest possible recovery and protect their legal rights, it is important that people know what to do if they have any backaches following a collision, what types of specific injuries may be causing the pain, and what kinds of testing and treatment they can expect.

What To Do For Back Pain After Car Accident

To ensure that you get the best medical care to make the fullest recovery and to make sure you receive the legal compensation you may be entitled to, follow these steps on what to do if you have a back injury after a crash:

  1. Get examined by your doctor immediately: Time is of the essence when it comes to properly diagnosing an automobile crash-related back injury.  The aching may be from a mechanical connective tissue or soft tissue injury, but that acute, chronic back pain after a car accident can also be caused by an extruded spinal disc fragment that may cause permanent nerve injury or even paralysis.  Unfortunately, as a personal injury lawyer, I’ve seen both conditions and the point is that you don’t know what is causing that intense, acute pain immediately following a crash.  Therefore, the sooner a person seeks treatment for an injury, the sooner he or she can begin receiving the necessary and appropriate medical care to get them on the road to good health. 
  2. Get medical treatment and the appropriate diagnostic imaging to rule out a more severe potential injury and to rule in what the actual cause of your backache is so it can be treated appropriately.  Plus, early medical documentation in the emergency room or as soon as possible with your family doctor will prove to a health insurance company or a No-Fault insurance company that the automobile crash is the cause of your back injury.  Early treatment and medical documentation is what insurance companies will be looking for when they are being asked to pay for necessary medical care.  Showing a clear temporal relationship of the back injury after a crash and documentation of the back injury and treatment also makes it easier to get a full and fair legal settlement for your injury if it was caused by another driver’s carelessness behind the wheel.  Delays in seeking treatment hurt your ability to get better faster and make a good recovery, makes it often harder to get reluctant insurance companies to pay for your treatment, and makes it harder to get a fair legal settlement after a crash.
  3. Don’t “tough it out”: No matter how slight or seemingly inconsequential the backache may seem to you, it could very likely be the beginning of what could become a serious injury if not treated promptly and properly.  As a lawyer, I’ve seen so many people who thought they had a minor injury right after a collision but within days or weeks the pain became severe and incapacitating.  Often what is happening here is the trauma or the crash causes a tear in the tough outer annulus part of a spinal disc, and then as people continue to move about and perform daily activities, more and more disc material begins to jut out of that tear in the annulus.  This can lead to a herniated spinal disc and surgery.
  4. Talk to an attorney who is experienced at helping people suffering from any back pain after a car accident: This is crucial for so many reasons.  The initial call is always free so at the very least you will be informed as to what your insurance company is responsible to pay and what you may be entitled to.  An experienced injury attorney can help you review your medical records as well as the treatment and care you’re receiving to make sure bills are getting paid and to help you assess what your case might be worth if your pain and disability was caused by another driver’s negligence or carelessness. 
  5. Tell your auto insurance company about your injury: Be sure to include your injury in your application for No-Fault benefits, which is also referred to as your “written notice of injury” – which must be given to your No-Fault auto insurance company “within 1 year after the crash.” (MCL 500.3145(1) and (4))
  6. Do not sign any settlements, releases, or waivers related to your collision: Until you have talked with an experienced attorney who is looking out for your interests, do not sign any settlements, releases, or waivers that are presented to you by your auto insurance company, the at-fault driver’s auto insurer or any other insurance companies or persons.

What causes back pain after a car accident?

Back pain after a car accident can be caused by several factors including whiplash, muscle strain, spinal disc injuries, fractures or pinched nerves. The sudden impact of a collision can cause a strain or injury to the muscles, ligaments, or discs in your back. It’s important to seek prompt medical attention. A doctor or chiropractor will be able to evaluate your condition, perform any necessary tests or imaging studies, and provide an accurate diagnosis.

The 3 different regions of the back

Back pain after a car accident can occur in the upper, middle or lower regions and can range from manageable to severe. Pain can result from muscle strains/sprains, ligament damage, pinched nerves, herniated discs and spinal fractures. Seeking medical attention promptly is crucial for early diagnosis and treatment.

Upper back pain after car accident

Upper back pain after a car accident may be caused by damage or injury to your back muscles, vertebrae, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and discs in your spine. Seeking prompt medical attention is critical for early diagnosis and treatment. Common injuries include strains/sprains, whiplash and herniated/slipped discs.

Lower back pain after car accident

Lower back pain after a car accident is often a common symptom of a lumbar strain, ligament damage or a pinched nerve though it can also be a symptom of a more serious injury like a herniated disc or spinal fractures where surgery may be needed. Seeking prompt medical attention is key for proper diagnosis.

Middle back pain after car accident

Middle back pain after a car accident may be a sign that you suffered a serious injury such as a spinal fracture, herniated disc or damage to your spinal cord. Seeking medical attention promptly is critical for proper diagnosis. These injuries can require extensive medical care and keep you from returning to work.

Can you sue for back pain after a car accident in Michigan?

In Michigan, if you are suffering from back pain after a car accident you can potentially sue the at-fault driver for pain and suffering compensation and you can potentially sue your auto insurance company if they refuse to pay or they cut-off No-Fault benefits.

About suing for pain and suffering compensation

In Michigan, you can sue for pain and suffering compensation as a result of your crash-related back injury, but you will first have to show that the other driver was at-fault for causing the crash. You also have to prove that your back injury constitutes a “serious impairment of body function” under Michigan’s No-Fault Law.

About suing your auto insurance company

If your auto insurance company refuses to pay for – or cuts-off –Michigan No-Fault benefits related to your injury, then you can sue for unpaid, overdue medical bills and lost wages.

Common back injuries from car accidents

Based on our experience helping people who have suffered an injury after a crash, our attorneys have compiled the following list of some of the most common types of injuries after a crash that people frequently suffer:

  • Lumbar sprains and strains
  • Fractures (lumbar and thoracic vertebral fractures)
  • Spinal cord injuries to the back
  • Herniated discs (lumbar or thoracic)
  • Bulging discs
  • Ruptured discs
  • Protruding discs
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Bone alignment problems
  • Soft tissue damage

Where to go for back pain after a car accident?

If you are experiencing any backaches at the scene of the crash, then you should call for paramedics and go to the emergency room as soon as possible. However if you leave the crash scene, you should go directly to an Emergency Room for medical diagnosis, care and treatment. 

Alternatively, you can try to see your family doctor that same day or as soon as possible after the crash but be aware that most family doctors will not be able to perform imaging to see if you have suffered a disc injury.  Most family doctors will prescribe pain and/or anti-inflammatory medication and tell you to wait and see.  

If you have a back injury after a crash and for whatever reason you cannot see a doctor on the same day of your crash, then the key is to make sure to seek out medical care as soon as possible. 

What doctor to see for back pain after a car accident

If you are suffering from back pain after a car accident your first point of contact may be your primary care doctor who can examine you and provide initial treatment. Depending on their diagnosis they may refer you to doctors who specialize in musculoskeletal or spinal conditions. Below are a few types of specialists you may considering consulting with:

  • Orthopedic surgeon
  • Neurologist
  • Physiatrist
  • Pain management specialist

Orthopedic surgeon

If your pain after a car accident is severe or potentially related to fractures or other structural issues in the spine, an orthopedic surgeon specializes in the musculoskeletal system and can provide comprehensive evaluation and treatment options.


If you’re experiencing radiating pain, numbness, or tingling in addition to backaches, a neurologist may be appropriate. They specialize in conditions affecting the nervous system and can assess and diagnose nerve-related issues.


A physiatrist, also known as a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, focuses on restoring and maximizing function in individuals with musculoskeletal conditions. They can evaluate your backaches, provide non-surgical treatment options, and coordinate with other healthcare professionals, such as physical therapists.

Pain management specialist

In cases of chronic or persistent backaches, a pain management specialist can help diagnose and treat the underlying causes of pain. They can offer a range of interventions, including medication management, injections, nerve blocks, or other specialized procedures.

Diagnostic testing

Diagnostic testing is a key part of diagnosing and treating an injury after a crash.

Below are the diagnostic tests most frequently used by hospital and doctors to identify, diagnose and then treat injuries of crash victims.  An MRI is the most accurate, but most hospital Emergency Rooms will use a CT scan because it is cheaper and faster to perform.  An x-ray will tell you if there is a fracture in the spinal vertebrae and an EMG is used to determine if there is nerve impingement or nerve damage caused by an injury. These are the four most common diagnostic tests that people will undergo for backaches:

  • X-rays
  • CT Scans (Computerized Tomography)
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
  • EMG (Electromyography)

How to treat back pain after a car accident

  • Rest
  • Pain medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic care
  • Massage therapy
  • Heat or cold therapy
  • Back support or braces
  • Steroid injections
  • Surgery


Adequate rest is crucial to allow your body to heal. Avoid activities that worsen the pain or strain your back.

Pain medication

Over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help alleviate mild to moderate back pain after a car accident. However, it’s important to follow the recommended dosage and consult with your doctor if you have any concerns.

Physical therapy

A physical therapist can design exercises and stretches to improve flexibility, strengthen muscles, and promote healing. They may also incorporate techniques like heat or cold therapy, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractors can provide manual manipulation and adjustments to the spine to help reduce pain and improve mobility.

Massage therapy

Massage therapy can help relax muscles, improve blood circulation, and reduce pain. However, consult with a qualified massage therapist experienced in treating post-crash related injuries.

Heat or cold therapy

Applying heat or cold packs to the affected area can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. Ice packs are typically recommended in the acute phase after the accident, while heat therapy may be more beneficial for chronic pain.

Back support or braces

Depending on the nature of the injury, your doctor may recommend wearing a back support or brace to provide stability and reduce strain on the affected area.

Steroid injections

In some cases, corticosteroid injections may be used to reduce inflammation and provide temporary relief for more severe pain.


In rare cases where conservative treatments don’t alleviate the pain or if there are significant structural issues like spinal fractures or herniated discs, surgery may be considered.

How long does back pain last after a car accident?

In general, mild back pain after a car accident resulting from a muscle strain or minor soft tissue injuries may resolve within a few days to a few weeks while more severe injuries like spinal disc herniation, fractures, or nerve damage can lead to chronic pain that may last for several weeks, months, or longer.

Injured your back in a crash? Call Michigan Auto Law now!

If you are suffering from chronic back pain after a car accident call now (855) 781-7747 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.

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Back Pain