Neck Injuries From Car Accidents

Neck Injuries From Car Accidents

Your neck consists of seven vertebral bones and 26 muscles, as well as the connective tissue that includes ligaments and tendons. In an automobile collision, the force of impact can cause violent motion of your head and neck and can result in serious injuries.
You may not notice symptoms of neck injury right away after a car accident, as they can take time to develop. Even when symptoms do show up, different injuries can produce similar symptoms. At CityWide Injury, a car accident doctor can evaluate your symptoms and diagnose your injury.

Types of Neck Injuries

A car accident can injure your neck in several ways and can range in severity. This can affect the bones, soft tissues, spinal cord, and nerves if they’re involved.

Neck Strain/Sprain

Strains and sprains are soft tissue injuries affecting the muscles and ligaments, respectively. The injury occurs when too much pressure or tension causes the soft tissues to stretch out or tear.

Whiplash

Whiplash is a collective term that includes neck strains and sprains but can also involve injuries to nerves, bones, and intervertebral discs. Rear-end collisions cause your head and neck to snap violently back and forth. Whiplash can also refer to any damage that results from this forward-and-back motion of your neck.

Bone Fractures

The seven bones in your neck make up your “Cervical Spine.” A car accident can cause severe trauma to one or more of the cervical vertebrae. Sufficient force can cause the bones of your neck to fracture. A cervical spine fracture can lead to damage to your spinal cord that could leave you paralyzed.

Disc Injuries

Between the bones of your spine, there are rubbery structures called “Discs.” Spinal disks have a tough layer of cartilage on the outside surrounding a softer, more gelatinous layer on the inside. The disc’s purpose is to prevent the vertebrae from rubbing together and absorb shocks. Trauma can damage the outer cartilaginous layer of the disc and allows the inner layer to leak out, putting pressure on the nerves and/or spinal cord. This injury is known as a “Herniated Disc.”
When the layer outside of the disk weakens but does not break, the inner layer can spread out, causing the disc to bulge. This is known as “Disk Protrusion.”

Muscle Spasms

Acute injury due to a car accident can cause the muscles to contract painfully and uncontrollably, known as a “Muscle Spasm.” It may be secondary to another neck injury that occurred during the accident, such as a herniated disc.
An auto injury doctor should evaluate your neck after a car accident to assess for injury.

Symptoms of Neck Injuries

Acute neck pain may occur immediately after a car accident. Sometimes, however, the pain does not develop for several hours afterward. This is due to the time it takes your adrenaline to get out of your system after a collision. The pain may limit your range of motion, extend to your shoulders, or up into your head.
In addition to severe or worsening pain that may affect your head or limbs, you should also watch out for any of these symptoms after an auto collision:

  • Weakness or paralysis of the limbs
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes/irritability
    Tingling, numbness, and other symptoms of a neurological nature, such as blurred vision or ringing in the ears, indicate there’s an injury to the spinal cord or nerves and warrant immediate medical attention.

Diagnosis of Neck Injuries

If there is a possibility of a neck fracture or spinal cord injury, it is important to keep the neck immobilized. Any movement could worsen a neck fracture and potentially injure the spinal cord in the process. The first diagnostic step is to rule out a fracture with X-rays. Other imaging studies, such as MRI or CT, may also be used to make a diagnosis.
If there is no danger of a cervical spine fracture, we may conduct a physical examination such as:

If there is no danger of a cervical spine fracture, we may conduct a physical examination such as:

  • Asking you questions about what makes your pain better or worse
  • Palpating your neck to identify areas that are tender to touch
  • Assessing your neck’s active and passive range of motion
    We assess your current range of motion by asking you to move your head and neck in different directions as far as you are able without pain. Passive range of motion requires you to keep your neck relaxed while we gently move your head and neck.

Treatment for Neck Injuries

Depending on the specific type of neck injury you have, the treatment options available to you may vary. This is why the correct diagnosis the first time is so important. If you have a fracture, it may be necessary to immobilize your neck in a brace for a period to allow the bones to heal in the correct position. In the past, immobilization was also common for soft-tissue neck injuries, such as those related to whiplash. However, we now believe that this is only rarely necessary.
Other possible treatment options that we offer at CityWide Injury include the following:

  • Injections
  • Heat/cold therapy
  • Muscle stimulation
  • Pain management medications
  • Acupuncture
  • Ultrasound therapy

We may also recommend chiropractic adjustment if we think it could benefit you, given your condition.

Some of these modalities may be unfamiliar to you. Muscle stimulation helps to block pain signals and cause muscular contraction by running weak electrical currents through the nerves and muscles of your neck. Ultrasound therapy creates deep heating of your soft tissues with high-frequency sound waves. Acupuncture stimulates your soft tissues by strategically inserting very thin needles through your skin.

Work With a Car Injury Doctor

At CityWide Injury, we not only specialize in treating auto accident injuries, but we also work with your attorney to help you build your case. If you need an attorney, we even help you find one. Contact us for more information about how we can help you following your collision.