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Can a Car Accident Cause Sciatica? What to Look For

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man undergoing treatment for sciatica injury after auto accidentIf you’ve been in a car accident and experience pain along with muscle weakness or numbness in your lower back, and possibly in one of your legs, sciatica could be the culprit.

The Mayo Clinic defines sciatica as “pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg.” It usually affects only one side of your body and can range from a mild ache to severe pain.

While most sciatica occurs in older people who have lost some mobility, it can also be the outcome of a car accident. It can radically affect your quality of life, and if it does, you should seek medical assistance for the condition.

Yes, Car Accidents Can Sometimes Bring on Sciatica

Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes pinched. This is usually due to a herniated disc in your spine. In some car accidents, the impact of the collision can cause a herniated disc, as well as damage to the surrounding connective tissue. When it does, there’s a possibility of pinching the sciatic nerve and causing pain.

In short, being involved in an auto accident can trigger the onset of sciatica, whether or not you have a history of back pain.

When to Seek Medical Assistance

If you experience any of the following symptoms for more than a couple weeks after being the victim of a car accident, make an appointment to see your physician to get the appropriate treatment:

  • Constant pain in one side of the buttock or leg (rarely occurs in both legs).
  • Burning or tingling pain in the leg, usually worse when sitting.
  • Weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot.
  • Foot drop—the inability to bend the foot upward at the ankle.
  • A sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or walk.

These symptoms can dramatically affect your everyday life and cause limited mobility. They can cause deterioration in the quality of life, not only for the person with the pain, but also those around them.

What to Tell the Doctor about Your Car Accident

Obviously, if you are speaking to your doctor because you have the above symptoms, you should be sharing details about those symptoms. When did they start? Where is the pain located? Does it happen more when engaged in a particular activity? Or a particular time of day?

It’s also a good idea to tell the doctor about the car accident itself. This might help him or her know what to look for and make a proper diagnosis. For example, you might provide the following information to your doctor:

  • How long ago did the accident occur?
  • Were you driving, or were you in the passenger seat? Or back seat?
  • Was your vehicle rear-ended?
  • What happened right after the car accident?

Be aware, however, that any medical records your doctor keeps could be subpoenaed if you have a car accident claim that goes to trial—in other words, the opposing attorneys can ask to see your doctor’s records when building their case. For this reason, we recommend telling your doctor about your car accident as soon as you can get in to see him or her. It can look bad if, for example, you see the doctor on a Tuesday, fail to mention the accident, and then bring up your back pain on Friday.

Typical Treatments for Sciatica

x-ray of spine after a car accident
If your doctor believes you have sciatica, he or she may order one of the following tests for you:

  • X-ray. Electromagnetic energy beams make images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A large magnet manipulates radiofrequency energy, allowing a computer to make detailed 3D models of the organs and structures in your body. An MRI can help identify broken bones, tears to tendons and ligaments, and other soft tissue injuries.
  • Electromyography and nerve conduction study (EMG and NCS). A procedure done to record and analyze electrical impulses in your muscles. During the EMG, thin needles are placed in your muscle to record electrical activity. The NCS is often done along with the EMG to determine if a nerve is working normally. Electrodes are then placed in various locations on your skin along the nerve pathway. When stimulating the nerve at various places, your healthcare provider can then determine the specific site of your injury.

According to Cleveland Clinic, treatment for sciatica is typically comprised of limited rest on a semi-hard surface, physical therapy, spinal injections, and/or medication to treat pain and inflammation. Surgery is occasionally needed for those with extreme pain or whose condition is progressing or not responding to treatment.

Many insurance companies fight medical claims for sciatica resulting from an auto accident if a member has pre-existing back conditions. Although these health plans have an obligation to help reduce the high cost of healthcare, people who develop sciatica as the result of an accident deserve to receive a high quality of care.

Don’t Let an Insurance Company Stop You from Getting the Care You Deserve

As a victim of a car accident, you might be hit with aches and pains not only during impact but also for hours, days and even years later. It’s important that you receive the right treatment for those injuries, but healthcare costs have skyrocketed, making it unaffordable for most Americans.

Fighting with an insurance company to get your medical bills paid when an accident wasn’t your fault can be confusing and complex. There’s a combination of physical, mental, and emotional costs due to your injuries. That’s why having a lawyer walk you through the intricacies of filing a personal injury claim can make a big difference on the compensation you receive.

In addition to filing a timely claim, you must focus on laws that may affect your claim, and document the totality of your injuries and how they’ve affected your life overall. You may be surprised to learn that victims of auto accidents can suffer from post-traumatic stress. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, symptoms of post-traumatic stress after a traffic accident are:

  • An ongoing, general feeling of uneasiness.
  • Anxiety about driving or riding in vehicles.
  • Not wanting to have medical tests or procedures done.
  • Irritability, or excessive worry or anger.
  • Nightmares or trouble sleeping.
  • A feeling that you’re not connected to other events or people.
  • Ongoing memories of the accident that you can’t stop or control.

Dealing with these feelings while trying to get fairly compensated isn’t easy. At Hipskind & McAninch, we understand this and are here to help you properly file your claim and maximize your injury settlement. View our list of car accident FAQs for answers to commonly asked questions about filing a claim. Or, call or text us today at 618-312-1515 for a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our attorneys. Our 98 percent success rate means millions of dollars recovered for our clients.

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