View Full Version : Can scoliosis be caused by an automobile accident?

03-15-2005, 05:37 PM
My 28 year old daughter was in an automobile accident the end of November and has had severe pain in her neck, back, hip, shoulder, elbow and wrist since that time. Her doctors have had her seeing a physical therapist several times a week since then. At least twice she has had to have her shoulder put back into place after the inflamation and swelling pushed it out of it's socket. They have told her she has some nerve compressions in her neck that will require surgery to keep from creating additional problems. In the months since the accident she has lost the feeling in her arm and hand and has almost no strength to grip things with her hand. She has developed carpal tunnel syndrome in her wrist and now has a cyst on the tendon in her wrist. Today she saw a spinal surgeon and was told that she has scoliosis that curves one way at the top of her spine and the other way in her lower spine. They also told her that her 5th vertebrae is slipping because of the accident and her 7th vertebrae is compressed. She goes tomorrow for a neck MRI to determine the extent of the need to have surgery on her neck.

She was checked for scoliosis as a child/teenager both at school and at our family physicians office. No one had ever noticed a problem with her spine before. Could this be a result of the accident she was in? What kind of resources are there to find out more information on her problems and the possible solutions to them? Are there doctors, surgeons or even chiropractors who specialize in this type of condition? What kind of questions should she be asking her doctors?

Any help or direction you could give me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

03-15-2005, 06:34 PM

If the accident caused the scoliosis, a scoliosis specialist should be able to see that. In idiopathic scoliosis, the vertebrae and discs become wedge shaped. If the accident caused the scoliosis, the doctors should be able to tell by seeing whether they can straighten her spine by having her bend in specific ways, and by looking at the x-rays to see if the vertebrae and disc are wedge shaped.


03-15-2005, 07:06 PM
It's hard to say...
Sounds like she was in a pretty good wreck to have all that damage... so... I wouldn't rule out that she could have injured her spine bad enough to cause some curve. BUT....
Scoliosis happens without cause all the time. MOST scoliosis doesn't have a known cause.
My surgeons speculate that a bad horse accident I had may have played a part in the development of my curve.... BUT... it's not something that can be proved.
One thing... if it was caused by trauma, if the surgery she has does something to alleviate her pain then I'd expect the scoliosis to improve once she is recovered well from this op...
If it doesn't improve (in spite of alleviation of pain and neurological symptoms), then I'd be wlling to bet that it has been there all along and was simply missed by the family doctor...
Talk to her spinal surgeon more about the scoliosis. See if you can get a referral to go see a scoliosis specialist (they're orthopedic surgeons). They will be able to give you an accurate picture of the severity of the curve (and then you'll know if treatment would be required), see if there's another cause for it (when I was diagnosed, I was worked up for tumors in the bone, cysts in the spinal cord, fractures, dystrophy...
Chiropractors can be useful in treating pain in some instances... But those that claim to be able to fix a curve are generally full of it. As the spine curves, the vertibrae reshape, and the curve becomes structural. You can push the bones back into "alignment", but they are wedge shaped, and any correction is short lived.

Another possibility is that her scoliosis was simply missed by a family doctor and school screenings as a youngster.... That happens more than you'd think! Someone posted about their child (I forget if it was on here or another board), who was already diagnosed with scoliosis and (I believe) getting ready to go into bracing, and the school screening MISSED that she had scoliosis, even after she'd been diagnosed by a scoliosis specialist.

Questions to be asked:
Severity of the curve? Degree measurement will be given... In adults, most surgeons will not operate unless a curve is over 50 degrees (some say 60 degrees) or there has been rapid progression
Stability of the curve? (Is it progressing- increasing over time?)(curves are less likely to increase in adulthood, but it can and does happen. I'm proof of that).
If 1) the curve is unstable and 2) the curve is severe enough, should surgery be considered?
If so, what levels of the spine will be fused? Will the surgery be done posterior (from the back only) or anterior/posterior (where they do some of the surgery through the side, and the rest through the back)

Sorry to ramble on... That's just my $0.02 on things

03-17-2005, 05:02 PM
Car accidents can cause subluxation, but it is not likley she could get scoliosis from it unless she was a young teen and still growing. Those pains are probably not related to subluxation, but maybe some sort of tissue damage or some type of bruising, but Im not a doctor so Im not sure.

03-17-2005, 07:51 PM
Sorry to hear that she is in so much pain. After the MRI they will know more I am sure. But the pain you describe in her arms is the same as mine. The carpal tunnel and the cyst too. The cyst was probably already there, and what happens with that it becomes irratated. Then pops up then goes down after the swelling goes down. I will have a knot the size of a large marble for a couple of days then it literally goes away over night. The lose of feeling is nerves being pinched so she should stretch if she can.

Her muscles could have been pulled all down her back causing the spine to be able to shift so she will have to strengthen those muscles back up. I feel that is why alot of people with scoliosis have such problems with their scoliosis getting worst after they brace. Your muscles no longer are strong enough to hold it up.

Jacque's Mom
03-18-2005, 11:32 AM
While I don't think an accident can cause scoliosis, perhaps the jolt of the accident "woke it up". Why I say that is I have scoliosis since I was 12, always experienced pain but on and off. I was in my mid-20's and was roller skating, took a horrible fall in the street right on my tail bone and from that point on, my scoliosis got so much worse - the pain was daily. I then had the surgery at 26 years old. I believe in my situation that that is what happened. Not all orthopedists are knowledgeable about scoliosis. Make sure you see a scoliosis orthopedist, one that his highly recommended. Good luck with your daughter.

03-19-2005, 12:20 AM
Jacque's Mom- I think that's probably pretty good and accurate description. Perhaps not "cause", but "wake up".
My story:
I wasn't diagnosed with scoliosis until I was 19 years old.
In retrospect, I always had mild scoliosis. Things I recall noticing: Since I was 10 yrs old, my shoulders were always unlevel. One side looked more rounded/ slumped when viewed from the side. I thought it was due to the muscle spasams I had. When i was having riding lessons, I could never keep the left shoulder back far enough...
Later, I noticed that when i was doing the fingertip test to determine whether a pair of shorts was school appropriate, shorts would pass on the left side, and fail on the right. It never seemed to worsen, so I was always just like... HMMMMM.... and left it at that.
When I was diagnosed (by my chiropractor, who did xrays but never measured the curve), my scoliosis was still very minor... probably around 20 degrees. Not over that by much.
However, I was having a lot of back pain. Intense spasaming, and soreness brought about by a horse accident that put me in ICU for a week.
Not even a year after I was diagnosed, I had surgery to fix a 52 degree curve...
so... I think you're right. Maybe it can't *cause* it. But it could play a role in it becoming unstable and increasing as an adult...

04-24-2005, 01:36 PM
I'm amazed to have found this! I had just this exact question. I was in a car accident a few years ago and have been having recurring pain in my upper back ever since. Been in therapy twice and still not better. I finally went back to my doctor this past week and found out I have thoracic scoliosis. I'm 26 years old and did not know until now. My doctor said that I probably had it since I was a teenager and the impact of the accident "flared it up". Now I deal with daily pain from it. What gets me is that I had xrays done after the accident at two different places and neither one told me I had scoliosis. Why would they fail to tell me that knowing that I'm having back pain? It was quite obvious when I saw my films the other day.

I'd really like to know the degree of my curvature though. I wonder if I can get my films from the hospital I was sent to after the accident. Not like I will ever need to go back there. It's nice to know I have a place I can come to with questions about this. :)

04-24-2005, 02:13 PM
Hi Ashabar...

You have the right to have access to all of your x-rays. If the hospital where you had them taken is local, call the film library and tell them that you'd like to pick them up "on your way to your doctor's appointment." They'll probably have you sign something stating that you'll return the x-rays. (Don't worry about it.) Just in case, be sure to have the contact information for your latest orthopaedist with you. If the hospital where you had the x-rays taken isn't local, call the film library and have them send the films to you.


04-25-2005, 10:48 AM
Great thank you Linda! I will do that and see if they will send them to me. It's about 3 hours away in the area the accident happened in. I appreciate the help!

04-25-2005, 12:02 PM

Just tell them that you're going to see a local orthopaedist, but you want the x-rays sent to you so that they don't get lost.


04-28-2005, 03:55 PM
Thank you once again, great idea! :)