Neck pain after a car accident can have devastating effects on an individual. It affects every facet of one’s life and can cause problems at work. Although some accidents may seem minor at first, the effect they have on the body can be anything but that. While some neck pain may be annoying, in other instances, it can be disabling. Let’s take a look at the many reasons that neck pain after an accident occurs, its treatment and how a personal injury lawyer can help.
The Cervical Spine and Car Accident Neck Pain
The cervical spine (neck) is composed of seven vertebrae (bones) that are cushioned one from another by intervertebral discs. The discs allow the neck to move freely without causing wear and tear on the vertebrae. The spinal column is at the back of the vertebrae and provides a conduit through which the spinal cord passes. The spinal nerves exit the spinal cord at each vertebra through small holes called foramina, one on each side of the vertebra.
The nerves provide different areas of the body with both sensation and movement. If the nerves are damaged at any level, the areas they usually innervate will be unable to move or feel sensations such as temperature or touch. The vertebrae and the spinal column are also supported by an intricately woven lattice of muscles and ligaments.
Common Reasons Why Neck Hurts After Car Accident
Pain and any accompanying effects of cervical damage, such as tingling, weakness, numbness or the inability to move the arms, are caused by an array of problems, such as:
- Injury: Most commonly, this results from a car accident or a fall.
- Disc degeneration: This can be the result of an accident or conditions such as arthritis.
- Neck sprain: Neck sprain is caused when the ligaments are stretched beyond their normal limits. It can result from a sharp snapping of the head back and forth, such as happens in a rear-end collision.
- Neck strain: This damage to the muscles can have a deleterious effect on the movement of the neck. Another problem called muscle spasm can also occur, which can make it impossible to use the muscles.
- Herniated discs: When the neck is impacted as it is during a car accident, the gel-like cushion that usually protects the vertebrae from rubbing against one another is damaged. When this happens, the gel leaks out of the cushioning disc and into the area occupied by the spinal nerves where it puts pressure on the nerve. This can cause a great deal of pain and can be relieved by surgery or conservative measures such as pain relievers.
- Radiculopathy: Since the nerves supply different areas of the body, when the gel exerts pressure on them, it may cause pain and numbness in that body part. For instance, pressure on the nerve that supplies the forearm can cause pain, numbness or tingling in that area.
- Compromise of body function: If the pressure on the spinal cord is severe, it can impede nerve flow to multiple organs below the level of damage. This can cause breathing difficulties, the inability to walk or talk and may require the use of a ventilator.
Neck Injury Symptoms from Car Accidents
Aside from pain, other symptoms can evolve after a neck injury. These include:
- Speech problems
- Feeling as if the throat is swollen
- Difficulty swallowing
- Problems breathing
- Balance problems
- Pain in the shoulders and upper back
- Muscle tightness
- Numbness in the extremities
- Muscle spasm
- Decreased range of motion
- Pain in the jaw
- Blurred vision
- Tingling in the hands
This condition can occur after a car accident. It can develop over time and cause additional pressure on the nerves due to the narrowing of the spinal canal. This change can cause bone spurs to grow, which further compresses the nerves. While mild forms of cervical stenosis can be treated effectively with conservative measures, severe stenosis often requires surgery.
How Is Neck Pain Diagnosed?
Neck pain is usually evaluated by a neurosurgeon who uses the elements of the person’s history and physical and diagnostic tests. The latter group can consist of:
- CT scan
Conservative Treatment for Neck Pain
In terms of treatment, the approach is based on determining the level of damage and the reason the nerve is harmed. Conservative treatment, as opposed to surgery, is useful in many cases. For instance, the patient may be given pain medications or muscle relaxers to reduce discomfort and allow normal healing to occur.
A conservative regimen usually is given over the course of six to eight weeks. It may also include reducing activities, physical therapy, injections into trigger points, usually of corticosteroids, and even steroids injected into the epidural space.
Sometimes Surgery Is Needed
Not all cases can be handled with conservative treatment, and surgery must be considered. In order to determine the type of treatment, the doctor will decide on the type of disc problem the patient is suffering from and whether there is pressure on the nerves or spinal cord. The age of the patient as well as other health conditions are also considered.
Some other considerations are whether or not the conservative therapy helped if the pain is progressing into the extremities accompanied by numbness and tingling and whether balance or headaches are involved.
Types of Surgical Intervention
The types of surgical procedures are:
- Spinal fusion: This unites two vertebrae directly
- Application of plates: Sometimes the fusion is stabilized with the use of plates or screws
Compensation for Car Accident Neck Injuries
If you are experiencing neck pain or injuries as a result of a car accident, we can help. The Law Offices of David Azizi can provide you a free review of your important car accident neck injury claim to help you achieve justice and fair compensation. For a trusted car accident lawyer, contact us online or call (800) 991-5292.