Neck Pain Following a Car Accident

You hear a screech, you jerk, you crash. The sudden onset of a car accident can leave you in shock. It is a scary situation to be in that brings on psychological repercussions. But depending on the angle, direction, and severity with which the two cars collided, you may even experience physical repercussions occurring weeks or even months afterward. Car crashes are one of the top ways you can injure your spinal cord, from the base of your skull all the way down to your tailbone. Read on to learn about the different types of neck injuries that can occur after a car accident and evaluate whether or not you experience any of the symptoms described.

Neck anatomy

Before learning about the different injuries you may have after an auto accident, you should know the basic anatomy involved in making your neck. Your neck is part of your spine and consists of the top seven vertebrae of the spine. These seven vertebrae form the cervical spine. Each vertebrae throughout your spine is cushioned by a spongy disc that lies between two vertebrae. These discs allow for flexibility. Without them, you would not be able to bend over or twist around. The discs also act as a shock absorber while you move.

Is it whiplash?

Classic whiplash is the leading spinal injury that frequently occurs following a collision, particularly a rear-end collision. Whiplash is a type of strain, or a tearing or stretching of muscle or tendon, that occurs in your neck. There are a few symptoms characteristic of whiplash, including:

  • Neck pain
  • Stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Lower back pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Concentration difficulty

Do I have a pinched nerve?

Another type of neck injury caused by car accidents is cervical radiculopathy, or pinched nerve. Cervical nerves exit the spinal cord via the cervical spine area and travel downward into the arms. Along this route, the nerves provide sensation to a part of the skin on the shoulders and arms. They provide electrical signals to certain muscles to make them move parts of the hands and arms. When a nerve is irritated, or “pinched,” by a bone spur or a fragment of a herniated disc, the nerve fails to work properly. This leads to weakness in the muscles and a numbing sensation in the skin for which the nerve provides sensation.

What is a herniated disc?

Herniated discs occur as the result of too much pressure on the discs that become herniated. This pressure is usually due to a sudden motion of the neck. When a disc is under too much pressure, it may herniate. Each disc has two components: a strong outer ring of fibers called the annulus fibrosus, and a jelly-like center called the nucleus pulposus. If you think about the disc as if it were a jelly doughnut, the jelly would come out of the doughnut in a herniated disc. This condition may be treated with an artificial disc replacement surgery.

Many doctors like to prescribe pain medication to ease the discomfort caused by any of the above symptoms; however, these medications are strong and serve to mask the problem. Garden State Pain Control specializes in out-of-the-box approaches to pain relief. Make an appointment with us today.