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Neck Injuries from Car Accident

Neck injuries are the most common type of car accident injury. Even a seemingly minor accident can cause damage to the neck and spine.

Understanding Neck Injuries from Car Accidents

Neck injuries are one of the most common types of injury associated with car accidents in the United States. If you or a loved one has been involved in an auto accident it is important that you seek medical attention immediately. Even a seemingly minor accident can cause damage to the neck and spine.

Types of Neck Injuries from Car Accidents

There are many different types of neck injuries and they can range from mild to severe. It is important to keep in mind that if you have damage to one part of your neck, you may have damage to other parts as well. This is because all the parts of the neck are connected by means of the bones, joints, nerves and soft tissues. All of these components work together to support and move your head.

  • Whiplash: This is the most common type of neck injury resulting from a car accident. The sudden impact causes the neck to jerk forward and backward in a whip-like motion, leading to muscle and ligament strains and tears.
  • Neck Sprain: This occurs when ligaments in the neck are torn or stretched, often due to the sudden deceleration and acceleration involved in a car accident.
  • Neck Strain: This type of injury involves a tear or stretching of the muscles in the neck, commonly referred to as a ‘pulled muscle’.
  • Herniated Disc: A car accident can cause the discs between the vertebrae in the neck to rupture or herniate, resulting in pinched nerves and severe pain.
  • Cervical Radiculopathy: This injury happens when a nerve root in the neck is damaged or inflamed, causing numbness, tingling, or loss of strength in the arm.
  • Fracture or Dislocation of the Neck: In severe car accidents, it’s possible for the vertebrae in the neck to fracture or dislocate. These are very serious injuries that can lead to paralysis or death.
  • Spinal Cord Injury: This is a severe type of neck injury from car accidents where damage is done to the spinal cord. It can result in partial or complete paralysis.
  • Muscle spasms: These are characterized by straining of the ligaments around facet joints in the neck vertebrae
  • Vocal cord damage: This can occur because of the impact to the larynx
  • Soft tissue damage: This involves injuries that are not directly to the bone. Instead, they affect the muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
  • Paresthesia: Tingling sensation on the skin without an apparent reason can occur because of a slipped disc pushing on a nerve root
  • Brain injuries: Any injury to arteries in the neck can restrict blood flow to the brain

Any nerve damage in the cervical spine region can cause mental and emotional damage as well. It is possible for a person to sustain more than one type of neck injury in a car accident.

It’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect any of these injuries after a car accident. Early diagnosis and treatment can greatly improve the prognosis and recovery outcomes.

Symptoms and Causes of Neck Injuries from Car Accidents

A neck injury in a car accident generally results from the whiplash effect due to the impact of the accident. Symptoms of neck injuries are not always felt immediately due to the adrenaline rush and the endorphins that mask the pain. Common symptoms of neck injuries are:

  • Jaw pain
  • Paraspinal muscle tightness
  • Limited range of motion
  • Muscle spasms
  • Low back pain
  • A chronic headache
  • Pain between the shoulders
  • Dizziness/vertigo
  • Blurred vision
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Inner ear problems/nausea
  • Difficulty swallowing and breathing
  • Numbness in upper limbs
  • Swelling inside the neck and throat

If you feel any of the above symptoms, you should immediately seek the advice of a specialist to carry out a complete diagnosis and recommend a course of treatment.

Neck Strain

The forceful stretching or pulling of muscles is called a strain. When the muscles in the neck are stretched, pulled, or torn, the outcome will usually be a neck strain.

Neck Sprain

Ligaments play a vital role in providing stability. These are bands of tissues that help to connect bones or cartilages together and stabilize joints. A neck sprain is the consequence of ligaments in the neck getting damaged or torn. Neck sprain usually reveals itself in form stiffness and pain. Along with neck strains, neck sprains are often referred to as whiplash or hyperflexion-hyperextension injuries.

Cervical Radiculopathy or Pinched Nerve

Cervical nerves constitute a portion of the human body’s peripheral nervous system. They emerge from the spinal column in the cervical spine region, passing into the arm. These nerves are responsible for ensuring sensation in portions of the shoulder and arm. They also provide electrical signals to some muscles to ensure movement in the hand or arm. However, the function of these nerves is compromised when they are pinched by pieces of herniated discs or bone spurs. This leads to numbness or pain in areas of the body served by the nerves or weakness in muscles to which the nerves lead. In medical terms, the condition is referred to as Cervical Radiculopathy.

Herniated Disc

In between the vertebrae in our spines, there are rubbery cushions or discs. Think of the disc as a small jelly doughnut with a tough exterior. A herniated disc refers to the jelly-like substance pushing through the tough exterior. When this pushes out it often pushes on nerves and causes pain, numbness, weakness, and discomfort. If this type of injury is not treated quickly, you may be left in chronic pain.


Whiplash injuries occur when violent motions force your neck into extreme positions. The word whiplash is not a medical term. Cervical acceleration-deceleration actually describes the injury. It is a hyperextension of the neck and is associated most commonly with auto accidents. In fact, it is one of the main injuries that are covered by insurance companies. We have experience helping those who have suffered a whiplash injury in all types of accidents.

Thousands of individuals suffer from whiplash car accident injuries every year. Many individuals believe their pain will go away and fail to seek proper medical attention immediately. This can lead to a lifetime of pain and other chronic conditions.

Soft Tissue Damage

Neck injuries involving soft tissue damage often persist long after a car accident and can cause complications that necessitate ongoing medical care. Whiplash is the most common form of soft tissue damage resulting from a car accident. Other injuries include sprains, strains, and tears to the ligaments and tendons.

Vocal Cord Paralysis

Another serious neck injury resulting from a car accident is vocal cord paralysis, which occurs when the car accidents result in an impact to the larynx. It affects the ability to speak, and in serious cases, affects breathing as well.

When Neck Fusion Is Required After a Car Accident

Neck fusion is a type of surgery wherein a variety of techniques are used to rejoin the bones. In a high impact motor vehicle collision, the discs can become dislodged or the disc material may rupture out of the disc. When the discs and bones are damaged, they can put significant pressure on the spinal cords and nerves, causing immense pain and suffering. Before a neck fusion is performed, a surgeon may have to perform some additional procedures including:

  • Discectomy: Removal of part of all of the spinal disc.
  • Laminectomy: Removal of the lamina.
  • Foraminotomy: Widen the area where nerves exit from the spinal column.

A surgeon may use decompression techniques to relieve pressure on the spine. They may have to fuse the bones using a graft of bone from the pelvis. They may also use hardware such as surgical plates and screws to prevent the bones from moving while the graft heals.

Rehabilitation After Neck Fusion

Rehabilitation after neck fusion is often lengthy and expensive. The patient may have to be hospitalized for at least 3-4 days, but the period can be much longer depending on the severity of the injury. In some serious cases, a doctor may advise the patient to stay in a rehabilitative unit before being discharged from the hospital. The patient would need a minimum of 6 weeks to see the first signs of healing; however, the patient may still not be able to use the affected arm. It may take at least 3 to 4 months for the arm to heal significantly and the healing may continue for a year or so. The expenses of surgery and rehabilitation can be quite high. If you have been injured in a car accident caused by another person’s negligence, consult a St. Louis car accident lawyer to claim damages for the losses suffered.

Neck Fusion – Possible Complications

  • Rejection of bone graft.
  • Abnormal bleeding.
  • Anesthesia complications.
  • Fusion failure.
  • Blood clots.
  • Infection.
  • Increased injury to surrounding nerves.
  • Immense pain and suffering.

Victims of car accidents who have to undergo neck fusion may be eligible to receive compensation for the injuries if the accident was a result of another party’s negligence. The victim may have to furnish evidence of the other party’s fault and negligence and of damages suffered.

Contact St. Louis Neck Injury Lawyers

To learn more about how we can help people who have suffered a neck injury in an auto accident, call (314) 361-4242 or contact fill out our online contact form. Attorney Christopher Hoffmann will speak with you personally. Your initial consultation is always free and we do not charge attorneys fees unless we recover compensation for you.

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