What Are the Symptoms of a Spine Injury?

The symptoms of a spine injury are variable, depending on its location, type, and severity. Common spine injury symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Localized pain
  • Pain that radiates into an arm or a leg
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Inability to move or control the body parts below the injury site

Radiologist Examining Woman's Xray

There Are Many Types of Spine Injuries

Your spine runs from the base of your skull all the way down to your coccyx (“tailbone”). Many different parts make up the spine and allow it to function in all of the ways you need it to. These parts include:

  • Bones
  • Discs
  • Tendons
  • Ligaments
  • Muscles
  • Nerves

These parts all form an intricate system that can be injured or damaged in any number of ways. Below is a short list of common spine injuries and their symptoms.

Spinal Cord Injury

This is one of the more serious types of injury. A spinal cord injury affects the nerves running along the length of your spine. According to Mayo Clinic, spinal cord injury symptoms include:

  • Paralysis starting at the injury site
  • Weakness or numbness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain
  • Loss of bowel control

Herniated Disc

You have a disc between each pair of vertebrae in your spine. Sometimes, wear and tear or an acute injury will cause the disc to break open or tilt out of place. This type of injury is called a herniated disc. Symptoms associated with it include:

  • Pain or discomfort at the site
  • Pain that radiates out
  • Pain that gets better or worse depending on your position or activity

Cervical spine injury signs and symptoms will differ from lumbar or thoracic spine injury symptoms. For example, a herniated disc in the neck may cause arm or shoulder pain, while a herniated disc in the lower back may affect the hip or leg.


For many people, sciatica symptoms primarily impact their legs. However, the sciatic nerve originates in the lower back, so sciatica is a type of spine ailment, and the best way to treat symptoms is at the source.

Sciatica may be caused by an injury or another medical condition, like osteoporosis. Symptoms, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, include:

  • Pain or numbness that radiates down one leg
  • Loss of range of motion in the leg
  • In rare cases, loss of bowel control

Muscle Injuries

Many of the muscles in your back are attached to your spine. A spine injury could therefore affect the soft tissues of your back, including muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Muscle strains or sprains may occur abruptly following a traumatic event, like a fall from a height, or gradually over time, like if your job involves a lot of difficult, physical labor. If you sustain such an injury, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Pain, swelling, or redness at the injury site
  • Loss of flexibility or range of motion (e.g., you cannot turn as far as you did before)
  • Pain that worsens when you try to use the injured muscles


Whiplash is often associated with rear-end car accidents, but it can occur any time a person’s neck is thrown violently backward and forward.

According to Cleveland Clinic, some people with whiplash experience no symptoms at all. Others may experience minor, moderate, or severe symptoms, including:

  • A stiff, weak, or sensitive neck
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain at the site
  • Pain that radiates down into the shoulder or arm
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Vision problems

Whiplash symptoms can take several days to appear. If you have experienced any type of trauma to the head and neck, monitor yourself carefully for these symptoms. You should consider seeking medical help before symptoms appear, just to be on the safe side.

Man Suffering from Lower Back Pain

Treating Spine Injuries and Their Symptoms

When a doctor diagnoses you with a spinal injury, your first priority may be to focus on treating the symptoms, especially if the pain is severe enough to interfere with your life.

Treating symptoms is certainly important, and your chiropractor will probably focus on this first. However, you will also want to make sure you address the root cause of your injury, whether it be:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Excessive or repetitive movements
  • A degenerative condition, like arthritis

Treatments That Can Help Heal Your Spine Injury

Chiropractic care and physical therapy can address both the cause and the symptoms of your spine injury. First, the physician will seek to alleviate your pain by suggesting treatments such as:

  • Ultrasound therapy or E-STIM therapy, which eases pain and heals scar tissue associated with soft tissue injuries
  • Spinal manipulations, in which the chiropractor moves your spine so that any misaligned parts go back to where they should be
  • Massage therapy, which reduces tension and increases flexibility in addition to relieving pain

When you feel a little better, you can start to focus on strengthening your back and spine. This can further ease your symptoms and prevent future injuries. A physician can work with you on:

  • Muscle energy techniques, which help patients who were severely weakened by their injury and need to start very slowly rebuilding their strength
  • Resistance training, which allows you to regain some of the mobility and flexibility you lost due to the injury
  • Altering your overall lifestyle, which may include incorporating spine-strengthening exercises into your daily routine or eating foods that promote spinal health

What About More Radical Spine Injury Treatments?

Symptoms of Spine Injury

Some patients, especially those with a severe or advanced condition, may need more drastic care. As valuable as it is, physical therapy and chiropractic care are no substitutes for emergency surgery.

That said, many people with spine injuries can still benefit from chiropractic care and physiotherapy, even if they do need other treatments. Chiropractic methods work well either by themselves or in conjunction with other, more standard treatments. They can even facilitate your recovery following surgery.

Do You Have Spine Injury Symptoms?

If you suspect you have a spine injury, get medical help immediately. After you receive any necessary emergency care, call Naples Community Injury Center at (239) 631-5445 to start a chiropractic care routine.

Our team can tell you more about the symptoms of a spine injury, diagnose your injury, and recommend appropriate treatment options.