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Can A Car Accident Cause Spinal Stenosis?

A healthcare professional performing a manual exam of an injured individual’s lower lumbar region with gloved hands.

According to the National Library of Medicine, spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spine that can cause severe discomfort and pain. Usually, older individuals over the age of 50 are at greater risk of experiencing this ailment, but young people can also develop the condition. While age is one major risk factor for developing stenosis, the condition can also be caused by certain diseases and in some cases may be precipitated by acute injuries, such as those received in a car accident. Individuals who receive a diagnosis of spinal stenosis after a vehicle crash may wonder: Can a car accident cause spinal stenosis? While the likely causes of spinal stenosis in any particular case will be up to a medical professional to determine, the general answer is yes: A car accident is one possible cause for developing spinal stenosis. If you have been injured in a car accident and suffered spinal cord injuries as a result, then you may wish to consult with a Missouri car accident attorney at Steelman Gaunt Crowley by calling (573) 341.8336.

What Is Spinal Stenosis?

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) describes spinal stenosis as an ailment in which the corridor through which the spinal cord runs down the center of the spine becomes narrowed, usually only for part of its length. This tightening leads to pressure on the spinal cord through the narrowed portion of the column. The spinal cord functions as a central conduit for nerves that originate in the brain and branch outward from the spine into the body’s extremities. In spinal stenosis, at least one area of the spine will be affected, with stenosis of the lumbar and cervical spine regions being the most common. However, some cases of spinal stenosis do involve more than one region.

Diagnosing Spinal Stenosis

After a car accident, a person may experience symptoms associated with spinal stenosis which could lead them to believe that this is an injury that was suffered from their crash. Some symptoms that may lead a medical professional to perform examinations to identify, or on the other hand rule out, spinal stenosis include the following:

  • Intense pain
  • Weakness
  • Numbness in legs or buttocks
  • Regular cramps in the calves that lead to limited mobility
  • Loss of normal bowel and bladder function
  • Reduced motor function in the lower body
  • Marked pain in the lower body
  • Neck pain and pain in the arms
  • Sharp nerve pains shoot throughout the back
  • Tingling in arms and feeling like they are ‘asleep’
  • Weakness in arms and hands
  • Loss of sexual function

Experiencing these symptoms should motivate a car accident injury victim to see the doctor if they have not already. Even though it can be a complicated task to properly diagnose a spinal stenosis injury after a crash, it is possible. A physician may order exams performed with specialized medical equipment, such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or Myelograms. All of these are diagnostic testing options that may be utilized by a medical professional to ensure an accurate diagnosis and identify the most appropriate course of treatment. In some instances, a person being evaluated for a spinal stenosis injury may have to have more than one of these tests performed on them to get a proper diagnosis.

How Can a Car Accident Cause Spinal Stenosis?

Given that there are many ways that spinal stenosis can happen, one may wonder: Can a car accident cause spinal stenosis? The answer is that car crashes, like other traumatic injuries to the spinal column, can lead to spinal stenosis. This is because one of the ways that spinal stenosis can develop is when there are fractures and trauma to the spine or spinal canal. Fractures and dislocations in the spine and spinal canal can disrupt and penetrate the canal, precipitating spinal stenosis.

Prevalence of Cervical Spine Injuries From Motor Vehicle Accidents

Medical researchers have investigated the prevalence of spine-related injuries and their association with car accidents in the United States. One study conducted by researchers out of Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands and published via Science Direct estimates that annually, there are approximately 869,000 cervical spine injuries that are treated in hospitals across the country as a result of crashes. These include spinal disc injuries, spinal cord injuries, dislocations, and fractures. 

Underestimation and Delayed Diagnosis

As the study authors point out, potentially severe spinal injuries, absent acute bony fracture of the vertebrae themselves, may not immediately present themselves as distinctively symptomatic. This uncertainty of the degree of injury can lead not only to an underestimation of the total number of injuries, particularly cervical spine injuries, sustained through car crashes, but also to delayed diagnosis and treatment. Consequently, individuals who have been in a motor vehicle collision should seek medical evaluation as soon as practical after the accident, particularly if they are experiencing any back pain. Missouri residents who wish for assistance in filing a claim for compensation after an auto accident back injury may also wish to speak with an attorney at Steelman Gaunt Crowley to discuss their legal options.

Treating Spinal Stenosis

Depending on the nature of a spinal stenosis injury, surgery may be necessary. However, some spinal stenosis injuries can be treated through non-surgical means like physical therapy, neck immobilization, prescription and non-prescription medications like anti-inflammatory drugs, steroidal injections, and more.

Compensation for a Spinal Stenosis Injury After a Crash

Individuals do sometimes secure sizable financial settlements for spinal stenosis injuries caused by car accidents. There are many details that go into determining what a fair settlement is for a car accident victim. Both economic and non-economic damages may be used in the valuation of a claim. The extent of the damages, like medical expenses, pain, and suffering, missed wages, property damages, and much more will be evaluated to determine how much a personal injury claim is worth. The amount of compensation that can be recovered varies widely from case to case because no two injury accidents are exactly alike. An attorney may be able to evaluate a personal injury claim and identify the full amount of damages suffered. This will help put a more accurate value to the claim.

Missouri Car Accidents

The Missouri State Highway Patrol reported that there were 131,390 car accidents in 2020. Just under 48,000 individuals were injured in these accidents. Negligent behavior like speeding, driving while drowsy or distracted, driving drunk, and other driver errors contributed to these crashes happening. The inclement weather that Missouri is well-known to experience also caused dangerous road conditions and diminished visibility for drivers which led to a portion of these traffic accidents happening. Ultimately, any way that a car accident happens has the potential to cause injuries to the spine, and therefore the potential to result in the development of spinal stenosis.

Speak to a Missouri Car Accident Injury Attorney Today

Can a car accident cause spinal stenosis? Car accidents are among the many factors which unfortunately can cause spinal stenosis. Car accidents are always stressful events, and their aftermath can be extremely painful when severe injuries are suffered. Spinal stenosis can cause a victim a tremendous amount of pain and suffering. Victims of car accidents in Missouri may be able to secure compensation after they were injured in a crash. For help navigating the personal injury claims process in Missouri, call Steelman Gaunt Crowley at (573) 341-8336 to speak with a Missouri personal injury attorney dedicated to helping victims of car accidents recover compensation for losses suffered.