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Pinched Nerve After Car Accident: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Pinched Nerve After Car Accident

Find compassionate treatment for your pinched nerve by calling 347-602-9530 to schedule an appointment.

Pain doesn’t always manifest immediately following a car accident. You might wait days, weeks, or even months before you experience noticeable symptoms. According to the European Journal of Pain, the discomfort can persist for eight weeks or more in over 67% of car accident survivors. One common cause of chronic discomfort is radiculopathy. 

You might know radiculopathy better by pinched nerves. Their symptoms range from mild to severe, and they have various causes. At Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C., our specialists know how to fix a pinched nerve with diverse treatment options. Learn more about this condition and how to manage it below. 

What Is a Pinched Nerve?

What exactly is radiculopathy? Radiculopathy occurs when an event or movement places too much pressure on the nerve. Various tissues and internal structures push against a nerve, causing pain to radiate from the affected nerve to surrounding areas. The offending tissues often include:

  • Broken bones
  • Pulled tendons
  • Strained muscles
  • Slipped spinal discs

Other seemingly separate injuries can contribute to or accompany radiculopathy. 

What Causes Pinched Nerves?

The cause of a pinched nerve depends largely on how and where the injury occurred. For example, sciatica, a type of radiculopathy causing persistent symptoms in up to 30% of sufferers, according to data available from the National Library of Medicine, often develops because of excess pressure from injured or degenerating discs.

Although a spine specialist can work out the injury specifics, you might identify one of the three following events as an initial cause for your nerve pressure. 

Blunt-Force Trauma

Violent car wrecks often produce injuries from blunt-force trauma. Blunt force occurs when an obstacle forcefully impacts your body.

For example, you might experience blunt-force trauma if your airbag deploys and strikes you in the chest. The impact’s force may result in radiculopathy when the tissues surrounding the affected nerve begin swelling. 

Spinal Strains

A pinched nerve in the neck or back may develop from spinal strains like whiplash. As a car wreck unfolds, your body continues moving at the same speed as your car before you hit the brakes. Therefore, you speed forward while your car stops suddenly.

This event causes whiplash, among other spinal strains. Your spine will jerk back and forth as your body comes to a stop. These sudden, quick movements strain the soft tissues in your spine. When the tissues become inflamed, they’ll put pressure on a nearby nerve. 

Broken Bones

If you broke a bone in your spine, shoulders, or rib cage, you could develop radiculopathy as a result. When a bone dislocates from its proper position, it can mash a nerve. This tissue can cause severe nerve pain due to its unforgiving hardness.  

Signs and Symptoms of Radiculopathy

How can you tell whether you’ve developed radiculopathy or a different condition? Radiculopathy has some tell-tale symptoms that most people can quickly identify. Although various areas of the body can develop this condition, the sensations remain similar:

  • Sharp discomfort that begins around the affected nerve
  • Pain that intensifies with various activities or bodily functions like coughing or switching sitting positions
  • Numbness and tingling sensations in the extremities on the affected side of the body, like fingers, toes, hands, and feet
  • Muscle weakness or loss of control, especially in the affected arm or leg

The symptoms may vary in severity depending on the amount of inflammation present at your injury site. 

How Radiculopathy Interrupts Your Life

While a pinched nerve may sound insignificant compared to other injuries, it can dramatically affect how you manage your daily routine. A subtle movement can apply more pressure to the affected nerve, causing a flare-up. Flare-ups are often unpredictable. 

You may not know how long they’ll last or whether they’ll cause a significant, continuous disruption to your life. Triggering the nerve pain could mean:

  • Loss of motion 
  • Inability to perform certain functions without assistance, including hygiene, preparing food, or getting dressed 
  • Disrupted sleep due to an inability to find a comfortable position

Additionally, George University’s Health Policy Institute states that back pain causes 83 million days of lost work and other activities. Pinched nerves push you away from leading the life you want.

These issues can affect your well-being as they take control over your life. Prolonged suffering can cause a decline in your mental health. As a result, you’ll battle an endless cycle of exhaustion, inflammation, and the pain that comes with it. 

Can Radiculopathy Cause Permanent Damage?

Radiculopathy doesn’t commonly cause permanent damage. A prompt diagnosis, speedy treatment, and rest usually result in relieved pressure. The nerve heals and functions like normal. 

However, some pinched nerves develop chronic issues. An untreated injury places constant pressure on the nerve. It gradually degenerates and loses function, causing unabating pain. 

Treating Radiculopathy

Your neurodiagnostic specialist can determine the best approach to treating a pinched nerve, but the method depends on the injury’s severity. Tracking your symptoms and remaining aware of your condition following a car accident can quicken the diagnostic and treatment process. 

Prioritizing Personal Health

Your doctor may suggest a healthy routine as part of your treatment plan. For example, they may recommend that you lose weight to relieve pressure. You can also integrate healthy, anti-inflammatory foods, plenty of rest, and light exercise to improve blood circulation. 

Medication and Injections

Your treatment plan may involve prescription medications or steroid injections, especially when the injury causes temporary symptoms. Some medications used to treat radiculopathy include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS): You can purchase most NSAIDS, like ibuprofen, at a local drug store. However, your doctor may prescribe extra-strength doses while you recover. 
  • Muscle relaxers: These medications dampen the nervous system’s ability to perceive pain, lessening the uncomfortable symptoms. 
  • Narcotics: In some cases, you might need a stronger form of pain relief. Using narcotic medications responsibly may offer the desired effects. 
  • Corticosteroid injections: Steroid injections significantly reduce inflammation. They relieve the pressure within a few hours after administration. 

Physical Therapy

Physical stimulation can target the inflamed tissues responsible for radiculopathy symptoms. A physical therapist may recommend exercises to improve circulation and strengthen the tissues. As the condition of the tissues improves, they put less pressure on the nerve. 

Other treatments, such as medical massages and chiropractic care, may provide supplemental relief. If you need physical stimulation to relieve your condition, you can work with your doctor to develop the best routine for your needs. 

Surgical Procedures

Finally, your spine specialist may recommend a surgical procedure as a last resort if the above-listed treatments don’t work. Most cases of radiculopathy don’t require invasive surgeries. When they do, they typically involve removing part of the tissue responsible for the chronic pressure and inflammation.  

These surgeries are typically minimally invasive and have a short recovery time and few associated risk factors. Your specialist will outline any habits or protocols necessary to speed the healing process. If you need more invasive surgery, you might have severe underlying injuries that previously went undiagnosed. 

How Radiculopathy Treatment Changes Your Life

Chronic radiculopathy can negatively impact your life in numerous ways. For instance, you may not participate in certain family activities or hobbies without risking discomfort, or your active lifestyle goes downhill, which affects other aspects of your health. Additionally, inflammation could increase due to stress, lack of movement, and insufficient rest. 

Radiculopathy treatment can stop this vicious cycle. A qualified, experienced car accident doctor can recommend a multi-faceted treatment regimen that effectively addresses all aspects of your pain. Combining medications, lifestyle alterations, and rest with other medical treatments can eliminate the inflammation and tightness causing the nerve pain. 

Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C. Specializes in Treating Pinched Nerves

If you suffer from a pinched nerve after a car accident, seek treatment from Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C. in New York. We have three convenient locations ready to help you recover. Call 347-602-9530 to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.

Our doctors accept most insurance plans, including workers’ compensation, no-fault, and PIP (personal injury protection). Same-day appointments may be available.

Learn more about common types of car accident injuries

FAQS About Pinched Nerves

What Does a Pinched Nerve Feel Like?

A pinched nerve feels like pins and needles in the affected area. Many people liken the sensation to the tingling feeling they experience when a limb or appendage “falls asleep” due to insufficient blood flow. 

What Are the Most Common Causes of Pinched Nerves?

The most common causes of pinched nerves are physical labor that requires repetitive motions or unhealthy posture. Sudden injuries, such as those sustained from car accidents, can also cause it. 

Will My Pinched Nerve Go Away By Itself?

Under some circumstances, your pinched nerve may go away by itself. However, you should still ask a spine specialist for guidance to avoid further injuries and assist the healing process. The specialist may also prescribe medications to relieve any discomfort while the injury heals.  

How Should I Sleep If I Have Radiculopathy?

If you have radiculopathy, you should sleep on the side opposite the injury. Specially designed pillows may increase your comfort and lessen the pressure on the injured nerve. 

About The Author

Picture of Ashwin Malhotra, M.D.

Ashwin Malhotra, M.D.

Ashwin Malhotra, M.D. is a highly respected neurologist based in New York City. With over 20 years of experience in the field of neurology, he has earned a reputation as a leading expert in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders and traumatic brain injuries. In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Malhotra is also a dedicated educator and researcher. He has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed medical journals and has presented his research at national and international conferences.