Injuries From Airbags: The Risks, Common Injuries, and FAQs

We all know airbags are designed to save lives. 

In fact, they’re a key factor in helping many people walk away from car accidents without serious injuries. 

But although many owe their well-being following an auto accident to airbags, what about the safety of airbags themselves? Do airbags cause injuries? 

In this post, we explore the risks, common injuries, and FAQs associated with airbags and how they can affect your safety in an auto accident.

injuries from airbags

Table of Contents

Do Airbags Cause Injuries?

Yes, airbags can cause injuries. However, they save more lives than they injure

Generally, if you are sitting in the correct position — not too close to the steering wheel and your hands aren’t over the area where the airbag comes out — the airbag will be helpful in preventing major injuries.

Who Is at the Highest Risk of Being Injured During an Airbag Deployment?

Individuals at the highest risk of experiencing side effects of airbag deployment are: 

  • Shorter people
  • People who are sitting very close to the steering wheel; and
  • Pregnant women

8 Most Common Airbag Injuries

#1: Sprains and Broken Bones

When you’re in a car accident, airbags activate so rapidly that the impact can result in broken bones. 

These may include fractures and sprains to your:

Symptoms of sprains and broken bones may include:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Intense pain
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Limited mobility in the injured area
  • A popping sound when you move the affected area

#2: Whiplash

Whiplash is a neck injury that occurs when your head suddenly flies forward, then backward. It results in the straining of the soft tissues in your neck and causes stiffness and pain throughout your neck and shoulders. 

While in some cases, an airbag can prevent whiplash, in others airbag deployment may simply mean you have a less severe case. 

Symptoms of whiplash include:

  • Fatigue 
  • Dizziness
  • Tingling or numbness in your arm
  • Neck pain
  • Stiffness
  • Headaches beginning at the base of your skull
  • Loss of range of motion in your neck
  • Tenderness or pain in your shoulder, arms, or upper back

#3: Neck and Back Injuries

The whiplash you may suffer from as a result of airbag impact may leave you with neck and back injuries. And even if you don’t suffer whiplash, the jolting that takes place in a car accident may result in damage to soft tissue in these regions.

Your neck and back are often areas that require continued medical treatment and therapy.

Symptoms of neck and back injuries from airbags include:

  • Pain radiating through your buttocks and legs
  • Pain in your arms, back, or shoulders
  • Fatigue
  • Stiffness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Numbness or tingling in your arms, hands, legs, or feet
  • Difficulty standing or walking
  • Muscle spasms
do airbag cause injuries

#4: Internal Injuries 

Internal injuries from airbags may occur due to the extreme pressure the airbag places on your abdomen. 

This may result in internal damage, such as:

  • Lacerations to organs, including your liver, lungs, heart, and spleen 
  • Internal bruising; or
  • Internal bleeding

Symptoms of internal injuries from airbags can include: 

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • A rigid abdomen
  • Tenderness over the injured area
  • Left arm and shoulder pain, indicating a possible spleen injury
  • Right-side abdominal pain or right shoulder pain, indicating a possible liver injury
  • Blood in your urine, indicating a possible kidney injury
  • Cold, sweaty skin, indicating early signs of shock

#5: Chest Injuries

The force at which an airbag deploys may cause chest injuries. To prevent your body from being thrown into the steering wheel, airbags deploy at lightning speed. 

If it collides with your moving body, your chest may be vulnerable to injuries such as broken bones and soft tissue damage 

Symptoms of chest injuries from airbags can include: 

  • Pain in your chest that becomes worse when you laugh, cough, or sneeze
  • Pain when breathing in
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tenderness in your chest, back, or ribs
  • Bruising or swelling of your chest
  • A ‘crunchy’ or ‘crackling’ feeling under the skin near your ribs
  • Coughing up blood

#6: Facial Injuries

Due to the way airbags are positioned, your face is an easy target for injuries from airbags.

While the airbag keeps your face from coming into contact with the dashboard or windshield, momentum of the deploying airbag can cause: 

  • Corneal abrasion
  • Orbital fractures
  • Retinal damage
  • Temporary or permanent blindness
  • Broken nose
  • Dislocated jaw

Symptoms of facial injuries from airbags can include: 

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Problems with vision
  • Nasal bleeding or discharge
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Lingering jaw pain
  • Loss of teeth
common airbag injuries

#7: Concussions

Airbags are designed to keep your head protected during a car accident. However, even though they can keep your head from hitting the steering wheel or windshield, you can still wind up with a concussion. 

A concussion may occur if your head collides with the airbag or is thrown back against the seat. 

Symptoms of concussion include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea
  • Severe, long-lasting headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Balance issue
  • Memory problems
  • Light sensitivity; and 
  • Difficulty concentrating 

#8: Surface Injuries

The most common side effects of airbag deployment are surface injuries to your skin. 

These may include things such as: 

  • Abrasions
  • Contusions (bruises); and 
  • Chemical burns 

The mechanism that allows an airbag to quickly inflate requires a chemical reaction. Gas and heat become trapped inside the airbag to protect and cushion your body from the impact of a crash, and are then slowly released through vents in the sides of the airbag. 

If you are gripping the steering wheel, your hands and forearms may suffer burns from the airbag’s side vents as they release gas. 

And in rare cases, the airbag may be defective — causing hot gas to explode out of the airbag resulting in facial burns.

Abrasions are caused by the friction of the airbag rubbing against your skin. Bruises and contusions may result from intense pressure of the deploying airbag. 

Symptoms of surface injuries from airbags can include: 

  • A stinging or burning sensation
  • A visible burn
  • Bruising

Surface injuries are most commonly seen on the upper part of your body and can range from mild to severe. 

do airbag cause injuries

How Can Chiropractic Care Help With Airbag Injuries? 

Chiropractic care can help speed healing of injuries from airbags by treating soft tissue injuries and reducing inflammation. It can also help you heal faster with fewer complications. 

Here are some treatments you may receive when visiting a chiropractor for injuries from airbags.

Adjustments To Treat Restrictions

Chiropractic adjustments can help put your body back into alignment and restore mobility. Your chiropractor will begin by assessing your joints to make sure they are moving properly before adjusting areas that are out of alignment. 

Strengthening and Stretching Exercises

Next, your chiropractor will teach you stretching and strengthening exercises. These can provide relief and accelerate healing if you have an injury to a muscle or joint.

After an airbag injury, your muscles, tendons, and ligaments can become weak and inflexible. 

Specially targeted, therapeutic exercises can prevent and reverse these types of changes and help restore your:

  • Strength
  • Range of motion
  • Flexibility
  • Endurance; and 
  • Coordination

Rehabilitation exercises also help prevent re-injury. 

At Cascade Spine & Injury Center, we tailor our exercise plans to each individual patient. 

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you recover from airbag injury symptoms.

airbag injury symptoms


Massage therapists are specially trained to manipulate your soft tissue and joints to treat injuries and promote overall wellness. 

Massage therapy for injuries from airbags includes:

  • Lymphatic drainage to resolve any excessive fluid buildup and ensure it is removed from the affected area 
  • Trigger point release
  • Scar massage to prevent scar tissue from forming as a result of an injury 


Acupuncturists insert very thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body. 

Acupuncture for the side effects of airbag deployment can help:

  • Reduce pain
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Improve function throughout the area

Cascade Spine & Injury Center: Helping Clients in Portland Find Relief After Auto Accidents

If you think you’re suffering from the side effects of airbag deployment, our professionals at Cascade Spine & Injury Center can help.

In fact, we specialize in auto injuries.

With over a decade of experience working with people with injuries from airbags, our team of chiropractors is equipped with the tools and know-how it takes to get you feeling like yourself again.

We listen to your concerns, symptoms, and health goals. And we conduct a thorough evaluation so we can create a treatment plan tailor-made — just for you.

Contact Cascade Spine & Injury Center for airbag injury symptoms to get started.

do airbag cause injuries

The content in this blog should not be used in place of direct medical advice/treatment and is solely for informational purposes.

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