Skip to main content

It’s not surprising that auto accidents account for the majority of spinal cord injuries in the United States. The spine is not only one of the most complex structures in the body but is also one of the most vulnerable.

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, a spinal cord injury, car accident-related, ranks as the most prominent cause of these types of injuries since 2010.

This begs the question — what can be done to treat a spinal cord injury if you’ve been in an accident?

Why you should treat a spinal cord injury acquired in a car accident

When you start to explore your options for spinal cord injury from a car accident, you’ll get all kinds of advice, from “see a chiropractor” to, “use a magnetic back brace”. Some advice you receive may seem solid, while other options sound unconventional.

The most important thing you can do for yourself is to find a doctor who is experienced with treating spinal cord injuries and follow their advice. This will ensure that you don’t end up injuring your spine even further or receiving inadequate care, promising the best possible healing process and outcome.

Most spinal injuries don’t heal properly on their own, making it doubly important that you seek the advice of a neurosurgeon or back specialist.

Conservative spinal injury treatments

When seeking treatment for spinal cord injury, car accident sufferers may want to start with a non-surgical approach. This can take many forms, from medications and rest to physical therapy. Here is a breakdown of some of the options you may want to consider.


The first line of defense against any traumatic injury is a medication that will reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories are useful in reducing swelling and alleviating some pain. They may also be combined with other drugs, such as narcotic pain relievers or muscle relaxants to maximize your comfort.

If a great deal of swelling or inflammation is present, you may also be prescribed corticosteroids. Corticosteroids work to rapidly reduce inflammation and may be used in conjunction with other medications, as they don’t address pain directly.


If any region of your spine was weakened by your car accident, a brace may be recommended to help bear some of the burden. This will help not only your spine but the muscles, tendons and ligaments that support it.

Exercise and physical therapy

Specialized exercise regimens and physical therapy can help keep spinal injuries from worsening and actually facilitate healing. Depending on the nature of your injury, location and more, you may not require extensive physical therapy.

Surgical treatments for spinal injuries

In cases where the spine has experienced a great deal of force, injuries may have been sustained that require spinal surgery. There are various types of surgery that can be performed, as outlined below.


Your spine is made up of a series of tubular bones that stack together. Between each of these bones is an intervertebral disc. This disc consists of a tough outer “casing” and a gel-like inner portion. These discs provide padding between each vertebra and aid in movement and flexibility.

Sometimes during a car accident, one or more of these discs can rupture or herniate when placed under undue stress.

When a disc herniates it can place pressure on your spinal cord and nerve roots, causing pain, numbness, tingling, balance issues and even bowel or bladder incontinence.

Luckily, a less invasive surgical procedure known as a discectomy can provide a great deal of relief.

Discectomy involves the partial or complete removal of the damaged disc. Occasionally, a procedure known as a spinal fusion may be used in conjunction with a discectomy (see below).

In other instances, your surgeon may recommend a disc arthroplasty, which is the replacement of the damaged disc with a prosthetic, or manmade disc.

Disc arthroplasty

Disc arthroplasty may be an option if you have a disc that must be removed. It provides an alternative to spinal fusion in some instances.

Disc arthroplasty involves using a manmade disc or prosthesis to replace the injured disc. The advantage to this option is that it will give you a full range of motion in the portion of your spine where the damaged disc exists.

Spinal fusion

When the stability of your spine is compromised by a spinal injury, a spinal fusion may be the best option to help you regain strength and use of your back. A spinal fusion may be performed if one or more vertebrae were fractured or otherwise damaged, or if you also sustained ruptured discs.

A spinal fusion involves your surgeon creating a “bridge” of bone between two or more vertebrae, essentially creating a solid column of bone. This is achieved through bone grafts, allografts, instrumentation such as rods, plates and screws, or a combination of these.

Percutaneous vertebroplasty

If you’ve experienced a vertebral fracture that has compromised the structural integrity of your vertebra and is causing you pain, your surgeon may recommend percutaneous vertebroplasty.

Percutaneous vertebroplasty involves injecting a medical-grade cement via a needle into the fractured vertebra. It works to stabilize the fracture and prevent movement in the bone.

Finding the right treatment options for your spinal cord injury close to home in New Jersey shouldn’t be something you navigate alone. After your accident, be sure you seek out the best and most reputable spinal care team. The Tristate area offers some of the most experienced and compassionate neurosurgeons and spine specialists on the East Coast, allowing you to get the care you need.