Car accidents can be very traumatic to the body and can lead to injuries. Most injuries are treatable and allow you to return back to your normal life. But what is the risk you’ll have future neck or back pain from a car accident?
Two systematic reviews have been published the past few years that look at the relative risk of having neck and low back pain after being in a motor vehicle accident. Relative risk is a ratio of the probability of an event occurring in the exposed group versus the probability of the event occurring in the non-exposed group. The studies found a relative risk of:
- 2.7 for low back pain
- 2.3 for neck pain
This means that if you have been involved in a motor vehicle collision you are 2.7 times more likely to have low back pain than someone who has never been in a motor vehicle collision. And you are 2.3 times more likely to have neck pain than someone who has never been in a motor vehicle collision.
The studies concluded that 63% of ongoing low back pain and 57% of ongoing neck pain can be attributed to the prior injury in a car accident. If you were not injured in the accident initially, you’re not at an increased risk for future pain.
So, what does all this mean for you? First of all, drive safely and defensively to decrease the likelihood that you are in a car accident. Make sure that if you are involved in a car accident that you are evaluated for your injuries, even if they are very mild. Get thorough treatment for your injuries, so that you are less likely to have long lasting effects. Continue therapies that your chiropractor, therapist, or other healthcare professional prescribes for home care. All of these things can help to reduce that risk that you have long term effects from a car accident.
Nolet PS, Emary PC, Kristman VL, Murnaghan K, Zeegers MP, Freeman MD. Exposure to a Motor Vehicle Collision and the Risk of Future Neck Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PM R. 2019 Nov;11(11):1228-1239. doi: 10.1002/pmrj.12173. Epub 2019 Jun 12. PMID: 31020768; PMCID: PMC6899867.
Nolet PS, Emary PC, Kristman VL, Murnaghan K, Zeegers MP, Freeman MD. Exposure to a motor vehicle collision and the risk of future back pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Accid Anal Prev. 2020 Jul;142:105546. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2020.105546. Epub 2020 May 18. PMID: 32438092.