Whiplash and Other Common Types of Neck Injuries
Most people will experience neck pain at some point in their lives. Whether it’s whiplash from a car accident or strain from bad posture, there are many common types of neck injuries.
Do you remember this famous line from the popular ’90s movie: “Jerry, did you know the human head weighs eight pounds?” According to research, that ever-so-famous quote from the movie Jerry McGuire is not exactly accurate. The human head really weighs a few more pounds. According to WebMD, “The bones at the top of your spine, along with your muscles and ligaments, support your head, which weighs about 11 pounds.” The neck has a tough job, says WebMD, holding up this weight (same as a bowling ball) with bones at the top of the spine, plus muscles and ligaments. For this reason, neck injuries are very common with ranging signs and symptoms.
The full weigh of the head jerking back and forth in a car accident, for example, stretches and tears those muscles, tendons and ligaments in the neck causing pain. This is defined as whiplash. “Whiplash, also called neck sprain or neck strain, is injury to the neck,” says WebMD and characterized by a collection of symptoms that occur following damage to the neck.
Whiplash is only one of the more common causes of neck pain. But, the good news is that neck pain from whiplash usually subsides with a manageable treatment plan. But, before we learn about treatment, let’s discuss types of neck pain and causes.
Types of Neck Pain
- Axial Neck Pain – Pain focused on one part or region of the neck and does not radiate.
- Radicular Pain – Pain that radiates along the nerve and down a shoulder or arm.
- Referred Pain – Pain in an area other than its source and not caused by nerve root irritation.
- Myelopathic Pain – Symptoms located at a distance below the neck, like legs and feet.
Causes of Neck Pain
What causes neck pain? Anything can cause neck pain from bad posture to disease and trauma, like car accidents. The National Center for Biotechnology Information says two-thirds of the population has neck pain at some point in their lives. Moreover, even though neck pain can be felt in the neck, the cause can be from issues located in the spine. The following are all common causes of neck pain, in order of severity (according to the book Emergency Medicine: avoiding the pitfalls and improving the outcomes):
Carotid artery dissection, acute coronary syndrome, head and neck cancer, infections, spinal disc herniation, degenerative arthritis and spinal stenosis and more severe and less common causes of neck pain.
More Common Causes
- Prolonged postures
- Minor injuries and falls
- Referred pain – mostly from upper back problems
- Pinched nerve
Car Accident Neck Pain
The most common type of injury in car accidents is whiplash, usually when the vehicle has been hit in the rear (rear-end accidents). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that neck injuries are the most common injuries reported in car crashes. They account for two million insurance claims each year. According to Atlanta chiropractor Dr. Geoff Tanner, “whiplash occurs in an accident where the body stops, but the head and neck keep moving forward and then whips back.” He says, “This violent action causes serious damage to the spine and the soft tissue in the head and neck.”
The prognosis for whiplash is that with proper care, returning back to normal life and recovering is probable. Dr. Tanner says that traditional chiropractic care is essential to reposition the spine, along with physical therapy techniques such as ice to reduce swelling, heat to promote healing and massage to relieve muscle tension.
Symptoms of Whiplash
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Headaches, specifically at the base of the skull
- Blurred vision
- Constant fatigue
If you have been in an auto accident and suffer from whiplash or other common types of neck injuries, consider contacting HS Law. The first consultation is free. Click here to schedule your free case consultation with HS Law.