Ignoring neck pain after a car accident is a common mistake that can lead to long-term injury and pain.
Often, a victim thinks that a minor "fender bender" or slip and fall couldn't possibly cause a serious injury. However, where the soft tissue and tender ligaments are concerned within the musculo-skeletal structure of the neck, pain can signal an injury much more serious than one might expect.
It may be a pain to experience pain, but pain has a very important job to do. It is how the body communicates that something is wrong and deserves attention.
When the human neck undergoes an injury that involves twisting, impact or a whiplash motion, serious muscle, disc and tissue injuries can result.
What's In Your Neck?
- DISCS: These serve as shock absorbers between vertebrae. They have a gelatinous substance within that absorbs impact. Damage to discs can result in chronic, permanent pain because discs do not heal or regenerate. It doesn't take much to injure a disc. Neck pain after car accident caused from a sudden impact, severe whiplash or serious twist can all cause a tear that will cause the gelatinous liquid to leak. An injury that creates abnormal pressure on a disc can cause it to herniate and protrude between vertebrae, no longer able to absorb impact. Instead, it becomes a constant source of pain.
- LIGAMENTS: These injuries can seem minor. Many torn or over-stretched ligaments are often mistakenly self-treated with hot/cold therapies with the idea that it just takes time to heal. However, a seriously strained ligament can become permanently affected. This can lead to chronic pain that mimics nerve pain, causes numbness and can become a source of arthritis in the future.
- BONES: Bones are found within the neck, vertebrae, can be seriously damaged in what may seem to be a basic case of whiplash. Don't make the mistake of thinking that you only have soft tissue injuries that will eventually heal on their own. You could have damaged the facet joints of your neck when you had that fender bender at the stop sign.
- ARTERIES: These are on either side of the neck. Carotid arteries are vital to circulate blood-flow in and out of the brain. If an artery injury is left untreated, an injury victim could find themselves in a life-threatening situation and have a higher risk of stroke.
The Importance of Neck Vertebrae
We take our necks for granted.
They allow us to bend our heads to scroll through messages on our smartphones. They make it possible to tilt our heads back to enjoy the full-screen cinema impact of a movie theater.
And every moment that we are not prone in our beds or on the sofa, our necks are bearing the weight of our heads. The average head can weigh about 9-10 pounds. That’s like carrying a hefty newborn around 16 hours every day with no relief using an arm that has torn ligaments.
Symptoms of Neck Pain After a Car Accident
If there's neck pain after a car accident and it is accompanied by these secondary red flags, seek immediate medical attention:
- Light taps on the spine are painful
- Weight loss
- Fever and chills
- Painful, sudden headaches
- Throbbing, pain inside the neck
- Tenderness of temples
- Tenderness of the back of the skull
- Coordination is affected
- Feeling of heaviness
- Numbness in extremities
- Shooting pain in extremities
Red Flags of Neck Pain
Medical experts share these red flags that are signals that neck pain is telling you that something serious needs attention:
- Pain is bothersome for longer than 6 weeks.
- Pain is severe, disrupting normal daily activities and rest.
- Pain is getting worse or staying the same but definitely not getting better.
Don’t Make These Mistakes When Suffering From Pain
The most common mistake an injury victim makes is under-estimating how serious their injury is. This usually results in other common mistakes in reaction to neck pain. Don’t make these mistakes:
- Self-treat with cold/heat packs. Instead, get proper medical attention.
- Ignoring the pain. You could be ignoring an injury that will get worse and begin a lifetime of chronic pain.
- Self-medicate with over-the-counter pain relievers. This may only disguise or minimize pain enough so that you go on with your regular activities. And this could make the damage to tissue, ligaments, vertebrae and discs worse.
- Not consulting a personal injury attorney. If an accident resulted in your injury, you may be entitled to compensation for the expense of treating your injury. Especially if the injury creates a situation of chronic, life-long pain that will require long-term treatment, a victim should not have to decide between economic distress and quality of life. Contact us for a free consultation with our Orange County injury attorneys who will aggressively advocate on your behalf.