Neck injuries are common with most car and truck accidents. The human neck is fragile and can be subject to a lot of force when someone is involved in an automobile collision. Even minor car accidents that are commonly called fender-benders can cause serious neck injuries. Also, even a minor neck injury can still be debilitating because, with every action, you are using your neck to turn your head. With many neck injuries, the simple acts of walking around the house or driving a vehicle can be extremely painful experiences. This discussion provides information on the common neck injuries that can occur in car and truck accidents and the mechanics of how those injuries happen.
Sections of the Spine
To understand neck injuries caused by car accidents, one must understand the sections of the spine. The entire spine or the backbone is made up of bones that are called vertebrae; the spinal cord, a bundle of nerves that runs up and down the spine and is protected by the vertebrae; and gel-filled disks that are between the vertebrae and provide flexibility, cushioning, and protection. All these structures are held together by ligaments, tendons, and muscles. The human spine is divided into five major sections:
- Cervical spine, the neck. Seven vertebrae between your skull and shoulders
- Thoracic spine, middle back. Twelve vertebrae running from your shoulders to the bottom of your ribs
- Lumbar spine, lower back. Five vertebrae running down your lower back
- Sacrum. Five fused vertebrae at the back of your pelvis
- Coccyx. Four fused vertebrae beneath your pelvis, often called the tailbone
Cervical or neck injuries are much more common in car accidents than injuries to other areas of the spine. The reason for this is the fact that the cervical spine is not protected or supported as the other areas of the spine are protected. For example, the thoracic or lumbar spines are protected by the vehicle’s seat and the seat belt, which usually keeps those areas of the spine from being jarred around and twisted and subjected to force. However, the cervical spine has no such protection. The only built-in protections for the cervical spine are seat headrest and air bags. However, these devices do not prevent the neck from suffering from whiplash-type action when the vehicle is struck from behind or in the front.
Some Common Car Accident Cervical Spine Neck Injuries
When a vehicle gets into a collision and is forcefully impacted from either the front or back or even the sides, an occupant’s neck can whip back and forth and cause injuries. This is more commonly referred to as a whiplash injury and can be a serious personal injury in one of the following categories:
Cervical spondylolisthesis. This is when a cervical vertebra slips out of alignment or dislocates. When the vertebra moves, it can pinch on nerves, which causes significant pain, numbness, and weakness in the neck and shooting pain down the arms and into the fingers.
Bulging or herniated disk. The gel-filled disks between your vertebrae can be injured and cause the jelly-like substance to either bulge out from the edge of the disk or even rupture through the membrane of the disk. When this happens, the jelly substance can press on the spinal cord, causing significant pain and numbness.
Cervical sprain or strain. Cervical strains and sprains are common in car accidents. Since the cervical spine is covered with many types of muscles, tendons, and ligaments, when any of these structures gets damaged in the whiplash type motion, it can cause a variety of symptoms.
Pinched nerve. No matter how a nerve is pinched in the neck, it can cause serious symptoms such as pain, stiffness, numbness, and muscle fatigue.
Stiff muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Neck pain caused by a car accident often is associated with injured muscles, tendons, and ligaments such as stretching, tearing, and bruising. This can cause these structures to be stiff and sore.
Facet joint injury. Facet joints are part of the spinal column of bones and allow you to move your head and neck area freely. A collision that involves significant force to your body and neck can cause your facet joints to get inflamed or irritated, resulting in pain.
Neck fracture. Any bone in the body can be fractured, and this includes a fracture to the cervical vertebrae, or a broken neck. Cervical fractures of the spine can be extremely serious. If it is a significant fracture, the spinal cord could be severed, either partially or completely, which could cause paralysis. The paralysis could be quadriplegic and from the neck down. Also, a fractured cervical spine could result in death.
Cuts and lacerations. Cuts and lacerations can happen in any type of car or truck accident. With serious car crashes in which there is major damage to the vehicle, there is often a lot of broken glass flying around. This can cause cuts and lacerations in the neck area and cause bleeding.
Muscle spasms. Muscle spasms can happen after a car accident when the muscles surrounding the neck are injured and damaged in some way. A spasm is similar to a cramp in your muscles, in which tissues can get locked up, causing significant pain and discomfort.
Washington DC Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King Help Clients with Serious Neck Injuries
If you have sustained a serious neck injury to your cervical spine from a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for those injuries. The Washington DC car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King have decades of experience in helping the seriously injured receive full and fair compensation for their injuries. Call us today at 202-331-1963 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Washington DC, Alexandria, Virginia, and National Harbor, Maryland, we work with clients in Prince George’s County, including Laurel, Beltsville, Adelphi, College Park, Greenbelt, Mitchellville, Woodmore, Greater Upper Marlboro, Springdale, Largo, Bowie, Capitol Heights, District Heights, Forestville, Suitland, Seat Pleasant, Clinton, Oxon Hill, Temple Hills, and Fort Washington.