Facet joints are the two small joints on either side of each vertebra that help your spine remain stable when twisting. These joints receive support from many soft tissue components such as cartilage, lubricant sacks, and signal nerves. When a facet joint sustains damage in a car accident, it typically causes pain in the neck or lower back.
How Facet Joint Injuries Occur
As with most injuries of the spine, facet joint injuries occur due to a sudden, jarring motion. When a car collides with another object and comes to a sudden stop, your neck often sustains injury. Because your neck vertebrae are the most flexible, the facet joints need to work harder to keep the vertebrae stable.
If your seatbelt or airbag thwarts your body’s forward motion in an accident, the force may thrust your spine backwards into your seat. This can cause facet joint injuries and chronic lower back pain.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Facet Joint Injuries
A review of symptoms and various medical tests can diagnose facet joint injuries. Common symptoms of a facet joint injury may include the following:
- Persistent tenderness over specific areas where the injuries occurred
- Loss of range of motion in the spine
- Radiating pain into the shoulders or upper back (neck facet joint injuries)
- Radiating pain into the buttocks or down the back of the upper leg (lower back facet joint injuries)
- Pain to the left or right of the center of the back of the neck (neck facet joint injuries)
A doctor cannot diagnose a facet joint injury with x-rays or MRIs. Doctors use a technique called a medial branch block (also called a facet joint injection or block) to diagnose a facet joint injury. In this procedure, the doctor will inject a mixture of x-ray contrast material, cortisone, and local anesthetic into the painful area. If the injection provides relief of the symptoms, it is confirmation that the facet joint in that area sustained damage.
Filing an Injury Claim for a Facet Joint Injury from a Car Accident
After a car accident, it is a good idea to get a general check-up from your doctor even if you do not notice any injuries. Some types of injuries, like facet joint injuries, can take a few days to manifest. As soon as you start feeling discomfort or notice a loss of movement in your neck or back, see a doctor as soon as possible.
Treating these injuries may require physical therapy, medications to manage pain and reduce inflammation, and in some serious cases, surgery. You may need to make changes to your daily routine, such as more breaks at work to stretch or eliminating long commutes. In serious cases, you may be out of work for several weeks if you have a physically demanding job or you have to undergo surgery.
By filing an injury claim, you should be able to recover any income lost during your time off from work for recovery and treatment. You should make sure the insurer includes the cost of your treatment in your settlement offer, accounting for any future therapy you may require as per doctor’s orders. Additionally, you may be eligible for pain and suffering damages that resulted from the car accident.
The car accident lawyers from The Law Office of Julie Johnson, PLLC can help you file an injury claim if you suffered a facet joint injury in a car accident. Contact us at 214-290-8001 to schedule a free consultation about your options for injury compensation.