Common Neck Injuries Due to Car Accidents
The neck, also called the cervical spine has seven stacked vertebrae (bones) labeled C1-C7, and its job is to support the head.
Due to the nature of car accidents, neck injuries are one of the most common injuries that occur and are often some of the most painful.
Whiplash is a neck injury due to forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip, commonly caused by car accidents.
Most people with whiplash get better within a few weeks by following a treatment plan that includes pain medication and exercise. However, some people have chronic neck pain and other long-lasting complications.
Our spinal column is made up of stacked vertebral bones. Soft cartilage discs in your neck and back are positioned between the vertebrae to cushion them as we flex and move. Each disc has a skin of tough outer cartilage that is shaped to fit precisely between the vertebrae it cushions. When our neck is injured, and the disk protrudes, we refer to these protruding discs as a bulging disc. A disk can bulge from trauma associated with a fall or a car accident, and it can also happen normally with time.
A herniated disk can be a serious injury of the neck. It’s caused when fragment of the disc nucleus that is pushed out of the annulus, into the spinal canal through a tear or rupture in the annulus. The spinal canal has limited space, which is inadequate for the spinal nerve and the displaced herniated disc fragment. Due to this displacement, the disc presses on spinal nerves, often producing pain, which may be severe.
Herniated disks can occur in any part of the spine. Herniated disks are more common in the lower back, but also occur in the neck.Sudden stops and whipping motions are common causes of disk herniations.
The same sudden stop and whipping motion that can cause a herniated disc can also pull the vertebrae apart. This can result in a dislocation or even a fracture-dislocation. With a dislocation, the ligaments holding the vertebrae together are torn, so the bone moves.
A danger of a fractured vertebra is that it can cause bone fragments to enter the spinal canal which can cause paralysis, either temporary or permanent.