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What Does Numbness or Tingling Mean After a Car Accident?

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If you were involved in a car accident, one of the very first things you’ll likely do is to check to see if you’re hurt. It can be a relief to find there is no bleeding and that you’re not in pain. If you’re feeling some numbness or tingling, you may not think much of it. It’s easy to dismiss these as minor symptoms that will probably go away in time.

But numbness and tingling after a car accident could be a cause for concern as they are often signs of a serious injury. That’s why it’s important to always get medical attention after a car accident. It’s crucial for a doctor to make a proper diagnosis and prescribe treatment to prevent long-term consequences.

What could numbness and tingling mean after a car accident? Here are some possibilities.

Nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy)

Peripheral nerves are nerves that connect the central nervous system (CNS) to the rest of the body. Autonomic nerves control involuntary functions such as heart rate, digestion, and blood pressure. Motor nerves control voluntary movements of muscles. Sensory nerves carry sensory information from the body to the brain, allowing us to feel touch, temperature, pain, and other sensations.

The sudden impact of a car accident can cause nerves in the body to be stretched or compressed, leading to damage. This can result in numbness and tingling, as well as other symptoms such as problems with motor functions or dizziness. In some cases, there can be severe symptoms that make it difficult to walk, dress, or perform other everyday tasks.

Pinched nerve

A pinched nerve can occur anywhere in the body where there is a nerve that is close to the surface. During a car accident, tendons, muscles, cartilage, or bones can be jolted, bent, or twisted, causing them to put pressure on nerves. Some areas of the body are more susceptible to pinched nerves in a car accident, including:

  • The neck, which can be jerked back and forth during impact
  • The back, which can be suddenly jolted in a collision
  • The wrists, which can be suddenly bent or twisted
  • The feet, which can be suddenly jammed or compressed

Early symptoms include numbness and tingling. Some people may also experience weakness or pain. If pressure is not relieved, victims may experience chronic pain and permanent nerve damage.


Sciatica is a pain that radiates from the lower back into the buttocks and down one or both legs. It occurs when the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back down the legs, is compressed or irritated. Car accidents can cause herniated discs in the lower back, which can then bulge out and put pressure on the sciatic nerve. Some types of injuries can also cause inflammation in the vicinity of the nerve, which can in turn cause sciatica.

Symptoms include numbness, tingling, and possibly pain and weakness in the affected leg. Some people may also have difficulty walking. Most people with sciatica can make a full recovery with proper treatment.

Bulging and herniated discs

Discs are the cushions between the bones in the spinal column. A bulging disc is when the disc becomes soft and pushes out. A herniated disc is a more serious condition where the inner part of the disc pushes out through the outer ring. Both bulging and herniated discs can occur in the neck or back.

In a car accident, the sudden impact can cause vertebrae to move suddenly and forcefully. This can put a lot of stress on discs, which can cause them to bulge or herniate and put pressure on nerves. Symptoms often include numbness and tingling, while some people may also experience pain and weakness.

Dislocated bone

This happens when the ends of two bones that normally fit together are forced out of place. This can happen in any joint in the body, but it is most common in the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees.

In a car accident, the sudden impact can cause a lot of force to be applied to the body. This force can cause the bones in the joints to be forced out of place. For example, if a car is hit on its side, a person’s shoulder can be dislocated.

Treatment for a dislocated bone may include putting the bones back in place or immobilizing the joint with a splint, cast, or brace.

Spinal cord compression

Spinal cord compression means the spinal cord and bundles of nerves running along the spinal column are squeezed or put under pressure. This can happen in a car accident when the force of impact:

  • Causes the vertebrae in the spine to move out of place
  • Causes the vertebrae in the spine to break
  • Causes the body to move in a way that puts pressure on the spinal cord.

Numbness and tingling are common symptoms, and may also be accompanied by weakness and pain. Many people who experience spinal cord compression can make a full recovery with proper medical treatment.

Diagnosing and treating injuries

It is important to get medical attention as soon as possible if you are experienced numbness and tingling after a car accident.

A doctor can examine you to determine if there is any nerve damage. This may involve examining cerebrospinal fluid, performing a nerve conduction velocity (NCV) test, and giving you an electromyogram (EMG) to test electrical activity in muscles. Other tests may include imaging tests such as a CT scan, MRI, or X-ray to look for disc damage or dislocated bones.

Treatment will depend on many factors, including the type and severity of your injury. Your treatment plan may involve rest, ice and heat therapy, physical therapy, medication, corticosteroid injections, and in some cases, surgery.

Medical expenses for diagnosis and ongoing treatment can add up quickly and become overwhelming. You may also have to miss time from work as you are recovering. If a negligent driver caused the accident that left you injured, you deserve financial compensation. But it can be a very complicated process.

An experienced Houston car accident lawyer can fight for your rights

Negligent drivers often deny doing anything wrong, and their insurance companies are not your side. An insurance adjuster may dispute the seriousness of your injuries or seek access to  your medical history to try to argue they were pre-existing. You may be offered a settlement that falls far short of covering all of the damages you suffered.

At Smith & Hassler, we will fight for the financial compensation you deserve. Our attorneys investigate your accident to get the facts, and build strong cases that insurance companies have to take seriously. We fight back against attempts to minimize your injuries and will be prepared to fight for you in court, if that’s what it takes.

If you’ve been injured in Houston, learn more about how we can help. It’s important to get legal advice as soon as possible. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

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