Neck Injuries

Most serious neck or cervical spine injuries involve damage to the spinal cord, such as fractures or herniated discs. Click the link to read more about spinal cord injuries.

Because the neck is so flexible and because it supports the head, it is extremely vulnerable to injury. Damage to one part of your neck often means damage to others. For example, whiplash from an accident may result in one or several diagnoses including muscle strain, ligament sprain and/or disc injury. This is because the parts of your neck are connected. Bones, joints, soft tissue and nerves work together to hold up and move your head.

Most of the time, damage from a neck injury is limited to soft tissue. But nearly every type of neck injury, severe or mild, affects muscles. Below are the most common neck injuries affecting muscles, tendons, and/or ligaments. Sometimes some of these will occur in along with more serious injury.

A "crick" or "kink" is a term often used to describe the pain you may feel after sleeping with your neck in an awkward position. A crick may also come from overuse, such as hunching over a computer for long hours. "Crick in the neck" is not a medical diagnosis. Usually a muscle spasm, arthritis or a disc problem is the real culprit. A crick tends to a minor inconvenience and not a permanent injury and can often be treated at home with over-the-counter analgesics and heating pads.

Muscle strain is an injury to muscles that move the spine. Although they sometimes affect the neck, most strains occur in the low back. To treat a neck or back strain, restrict your activity to accommodate your pain and if the pain lasts longer over a week, see a doctor.

Sprains are injuries to ligaments. (Ligaments are strong bands of connective tissue that hold bones together.) Neck sprains are often caused by falls or sudden twists that overload or overstretch the joint. Another cause is repeated stress to the joint. Symptoms include swelling, reduced flexibility and pain. Sprains can be mild, moderate or severe.

Certain neck injuries may also do damage to the nervous system by irritating nerve roots or affecting the spinal cord. Others may pinch or stretch a nerve. Generally, neck injuries that affect the nervous system are more complicated to diagnose, treat and cope with than soft tissue trauma or mild to moderate joint injury. For one thing, diagnosing nerve pain is not always straightforward. And injury to the spinal cord may result in life long disability, paralysis or even death.

Like a crick, “whiplash” is not a medical diagnosis. It's a set of symptoms following an injury in which the head is thrown backwards first, and then quickly forward. It's most often due to car accidents, but may be caused by sports injuries, falls or trauma. The speed of the cars involved in the accident or the amount of physical damage to the car may not relate to the intensity of neck injury; speeds as low as 15 miles per hour can produce enough energy to cause whiplash in occupants, whether or not they wear seat belts. Whiplash may also damage joints or discs, which in turn may irritate nerve roots or possibly the spinal cord. Depending on the injury, symptoms can include pain, weakness/numbness/tingling down the arm, stiffness, dizziness or disturbed sleep. Symptoms may even be delayed a few days following the injury.

Herniated discs occur when the soft substance on the inside of the disc (nucleus pulposis) is pushed out. Should this substance land on a nerve root, which it often does, you'll likely feel pain and have symptoms such as weakness, numbness and/or pins and needles down your arm. Tears in the tough outer fibers of the disc may lead to a herniation. These tears may be brought on by either repeated or a sudden, forceful stress to the joint. For example, lifting a heavy load with a twisted spine may cause a disc to herniate. Treatment generally starts with medication and physical therapy, but may proceed to surgery as needed.

“Stingers and burners” (not a medical diagnosis, but named for the way they feel) are temporary injuries to a nerve root in the neck. They occur most often in football players (especially tacklers) and other contact sport athletes. They may be caused by either by an abrupt tilt of the head or when the head and shoulder are forced in opposite directions at the same time. Symptoms include burning, stinging, numbness/weakness, or an electrical sensation down one arm. You may feel a warm sensation along with the other symptoms. If a stinger or burner is severe or lasts longer than a few minutes, see a doctor.

A neck fracture is a break in a cervical bone. It may be caused by trauma, a fall or degenerative changes in the spine. The angle of force hitting the neck and the head's position at impact often determine the type and severity of the break. Football players who block with their head are at high risk. Elderly people with osteoporosis are particularly at risk for neck fractures because their bones are very fragile

For your serious personal injury, you need legal representation from a qualified personal injury attorney. Contact us for your free consultation.

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