Common Neck Injuries Caused by Car Accidents and Their Symptoms

The tingling sensation from your neck down into your arms and fingertips hasn’t stopped in days. Your headache is becoming progressively worse. Turning your neck from side to side is painful.

The auto injury you were involved in earlier last week was minor, but your symptoms don’t seem to be subsiding. You’re wondering, “What neck injuries are caused by a car accident?”.

Despite how minor a car accident might be, suffering neck injuries are common. Whether it be a slipped disc, muscle sprain, or ligament tear, the pain can become debilitating.

Learn how seeking chiropractic care for neck injuries caused by a car accident can be beneficial for your healing.

Table of Contents

neck injury caused by car accident

Is Neck Pain Normal After a Car Accident?

Neck injuries caused by car accidents are common because, even if the force is minor, the impact of the accident suddenly moves your head around. 

You might experience:

  • Whiplash
  • Muscle strains
  • Torn ligaments
  • Stretching; or
  • Bruising

But just because neck pain is common after a car accident doesn’t mean it should be left untreated. If you’ve experienced an auto injury and are suffering from neck pain, contact Cascade Spine & Injury Center to help relieve your symptoms.

neck injury caused by car accident

What Are the Symptoms of a Neck Injury From a Car Accident?

Being cognizant of your symptoms is important following a car accident to help determine if you are suffering from any neck injuries.

If you’re experiencing…

  • Limited range of motion
  • Any level of pain
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • New fatigue with activity
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stiffness
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Blurred vision; or
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms

… you should seek medical attention and follow up with a chiropractor for care if needed.

5 Common Neck Injuries Caused by Car Accidents

neck injuries caused by car accidents

#1: Muscle Strain

Muscle strains are one of the most common types of neck injury caused by a car accident. As impact happens, the muscles in and around the neck tighten down to protect the neck from the force of the movement which causes tears in the soft tissues and muscle fibers.

You may begin to notice symptoms as early as hours, days, or even weeks following the injury, depending on the severity. 

Typically, neck muscle strains are felt in the back of the neck and present as an achy or throbbing pain. 

You might also notice …

  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Redness; or
  • Warmth

… over the injured area.

How Muscle Strains Are Caused by Car Accidents 

Muscle strains can be caused by many incidents in a car accident, but they commonly occur from whiplash, which happens to nearly 3 million Americans each year.

Picture this:

You’re driving through town on a cold winter morning heading to work. You see the light ahead turn from green to yellow so you begin to slow down. Before you come to a full stop, you start reaching for your control center to raise the heat — you’re traveling around 10 mph. Suddenly, you rear-end the vehicle stopped in front of you and your head thrusts forwards toward the steering wheel, and back again before stopping. Luckily, your seatbelt kept you constrained, but the constraint kept the force of the impact focused around your neck.

#2: Facet Injury

Facet injuries are sprains, derangements, or other injuries to the small joints at the back of the spine that can be caused by excessive or abnormal movements, like those occurring in auto injuries. They can occur at the joint capsule or cartilage. 

You may suspect you have a facet injury if you’re experiencing …

  • Irritation
  • Dysfunction; or
  • Inflammation

… and have problems with rotation or compression at the spinal joint that connects your vertebra. Rather than these joints sliding against each other as they should, the force of the impact causes them to slam together causing the injury.

Other facet injury symptoms include:

  • Back and neck muscle spasms
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty standing upright
  • Increased pain with twisting or stretching
  • Radiating pain from the back to the buttocks and legs; and
  • Shoulder and upper back pain

How Facet Injuries Are Caused by Car Accidents

Many auto injury scenarios can cause facet injuries, like the impact from the crash, jarring movements, or your body becoming compressed.

Picture this:

You’re sitting at a stop sign waiting until it’s your turn to continue straight through. As you begin to enter the intersection, you’re hit on the passenger side by someone who failed to stop. You’re pushed into your door where you become stuck. 

#3: Disc Injuries 

The intervertebral discs in your spine are designed to absorb shock and protect your vertebrae during compression. Discs can either slip and compress spinal cord nerves, or bulge and rupture as the soft tissue between the vertebrates gets pushed out.

If you have a disc injury, you probably have:

  • Lower back pain
  • Numbness or tingling in your shoulders, arms, back, hands, legs, or feet
  • Neck pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty bending or straightening your back

You might notice the pain from a disc injury right away, or it could take days or weeks for the symptoms to present themselves. Because disc injuries are ligament injuries with a poor blood supply, they could heal very slowly. 

How Disc Injuries Are Caused by Car Accidents

You’re rear-ended approaching a stop light.

You hit a tree due to poor road conditions.

Someone slams into you while driving recklessly.

Disc injuries can be caused by many auto-related occurrences, and the pain can be debilitating. If you’re a victim of a disc injury that hasn’t been resolved with home-care measures, chiropractic care can help.

#4: Nerve Injuries

Three common nerve injuries to the neck caused by car accidents include:

  • Spinal cord contusions
  • Radiculopathy; and 
  • Peripheral nerve injury

Spinal cord contusions (SCC) happen when the spinal cord is crushed and the nerve fibers remain physically intact. 

Radiculopathy, or a compressed spinal nerve root, can occur along the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar parts of the spine. 

Peripheral nerve injury occurs when there is tearing or stretching of nerves outside of the spine. Typically, you can pinpoint pain, indicating a nerve injury.

How do you know if you have a nerve injury from a car accident? 

You likely are experiencing:

  • Tingling or “pins and needles”
  • Pain with certain movements
  • Numbness
  • Radiating pains
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weakened reflexes; or
  • Aching or burning sensations

How Nerve Injuries Are Caused by Car Accidents

Nearly any type of auto injury can result in nerve injuries in the neck. Whether you’ve been …

  • Rear-ended
  • T-boned
  • Crashed head-on into someone or something
  • Spun out of control
  • Flipped and rolled

… the list goes on and on… then you can be a victim of nerve injuries from a car accident.

#5: Ligament Injuries 

Ligament neck injuries caused by car accidents aren’t so cut and dry. Ligament damage can result from many auto injuries whether it be from:

  • Whiplash
  • Twisting and turning abnormally; or
  • Forceful and sudden compressions 

Sometimes, an audible popping or cracking is heard when ligaments are torn. You might also feel immediate severe pain and experience inflammation and instability.

How Ligament Injuries Are Caused by Car Accidents

Imagine that you’re in high school and driving through your town with your best friends in the car. You’re a relatively new licensed driver and are fully enjoying your freedoms. As you’re cruising along, a pedestrian suddenly pops out into the crosswalk. You were unprepared for them to appear and slam on your breaks to avoid hitting them. At the same time, you naturally jerk your neck to the left and close your eyes as you wait for the inevitable to happen.

Although you didn’t hit the pedestrian, the sudden force from braking caused your body to forcefully jerk into your seat as you whipped your head around waiting for impact. The sudden jerking movements caused a slight ligament tear to your neck.

How a Neck Injury Is Diagnosed by a Chiropractor  

If you’ve been in an auto injury and find yourself wondering, “Is neck pain normal after a car accident?” you may want to visit a chiropractor for a potential diagnosis and treatment.

Depending on your symptoms, a chiropractor will use different examination techniques to determine your diagnosis. These exams help to identify:

  • Any areas of restricted joint movement
  • Intervertebral disc injuries
  • Muscle spasms; and
  • Ligament injuries
  1. Chiropractors may use a physical exam to feel for tenderness or tightness and to see how well your spinal joints move. They might also…
  • Watch how you walk
  • Check your posture
  • Check your range of motion; and
  • Analyze your body’s mechanics

… to make a diagnosis.

  1. X-rays can help determine narrowed disc space or fractures, and other tests like computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can show herniated or bulging discs. Electromyography tests (EMG) can be used to assess nerve damage and measure how quickly your nerves respond.
  2. If it’s suspected you might have a ligament injury, chiropractors typically use an x-ray with stress views to watch for flexion, tension, and lateral bending in the neck. With these views, they can tell if bones are tilting as they should be or sliding, causing pain.

Are you experiencing symptoms of a neck injury caused by a car accident? Cascade Spine & Injury Center offers the best treatment for neck injuries in the Portland area. If you’re wondering if you should seek chiropractic treatment, visit us for a proper diagnosis.

neck injury caused by car accident

Chiropractic Treatment for a Neck Injury Caused by a Car Accident 

Once a proper diagnosis has been made, chiropractors can devise a treatment plan for your neck injury caused by a car accident. 

Generally, chiropractors will work with the body’s natural inflammatory process to help heal the affected area and use ice or heat as needed to help the injury along. 

Depending on the injury, adjustments can be made around the adjacent areas to help reduce stress going to the injured area and encourage quicker healing.

If necessary, chiropractors will also prescribe and practice specific strengthening or stretching exercises for your neck injury.

Other standard neck injury treatment options used by chiropractors often include:

If neck injuries are so severe they require surgery, options most often include:

  • Kyphoplasty for fractured spine vertebrae
  • Microdiscectomy to remove a disc or bone spur
  • Fusion surgery to fuse discs for neck stabilization
  • Robotic spine surgery to treat lumbar stenosis
  • Discectomy to remove a problematic disc in the cervical spine
  • Artificial disc replacement to replace a damaged disc with an artificial one
what neck injuries are caused by car accident

Do You Have a Neck Injury Caused by a Car Accident? Cascade Spine & Injury Center Can Help

Are you suffering from a neck injury caused by a car accident? Suffer no longer, because Dr. McClaren and our team of professionals at Cascade Spine & Injury Center focus on rehabbing patients and helping them recover from auto-related injuries of all sorts. 

Our multidisciplinary clinic offers every treatment option you might need, whether it be …

  • Chiropractic care
  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture; or
  • Stretching and strengthening exercises

… all in one location. 

Don’t live in pain for another minute — contact us today to book your first appointment.

neck injury caused by car accident

The content in this blog should not be used in place of direct medical advice/treatment and is solely for informational purposes.

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