One of the most common complaints car accident doctors hear about is neck pain after an accident. While seat belts are an important safety feature designed to help prevent you from getting ejected from the vehicle during an accident, they cannot protect you from all types of injuries. A seat belt can help hold your upper body in place from your shoulders to your waist, but your head and neck are free to get jostled around during a car accident. One of the most common causes of neck pain after a car accident is a whiplash injury. Neck pain after an accident can last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, depending on the type and severity of your injury. It helps to understand how a car accident can lead to neck injuries.
Why Does My Neck Hurt After a Car Accident?
Fender benders, also known as rear-end collisions, are the most common type of car accident that can cause whiplash injuries. The force of impact from a car running into the back of your vehicle can cause your head and neck to snap forward and backward violently. This can cause the muscles in your neck to stretch and strain out of their typical range of motion, which leads to a neck injury. These overstretched muscles can become torn, and other structures in your neck, like ligaments, vertebrae, and spinal discs, can also be impacted. The sudden amount of stress on your neck can also cause an injury based on how you were seated in the car and other factors like your overall health condition.
How Long Should Neck Pain Last After a Vehicular Accident?
There are four major factors that can impact how long you experience pain after a car accident. First, the type of car accident you were involved in can play a significant role in the type and severity of your injuries. Was it a fender-bender that occurred at relatively high speeds or a multi-vehicle crash on a busy highway? The severity of the accident can directly correlate with the severity of your injuries, which means you might experience more severe symptoms that could last for a longer period of time. The specific type of injuries you suffer after a car accident will also impact how long you experience symptoms like pain afterward. Bruising, minor swelling, or overstretched muscles can cause symptoms that last for a shorter period of time, while deep lacerations, muscle tears, or broken bones could result in more symptoms. How you and other passengers were seated in the car can also impact the type and severity of your injuries and the resulting symptoms you deal with as you heal and recover.
Whiplash & Other Collision-Related Neck Injuries
Here are three common examples of neck injuries that can occur in car accidents.
Whiplash, the most common car accident injury, affects millions of people each year. The sudden impact of the accident can jolt your head and neck around, causing the muscles and ligaments to become overstretched or even torn. This can also cause inflammation, tenderness, headaches, and neck pain. Whiplash can also cause stiffness in your neck and upper back, which can reduce your range of motion. If you suffer from a whiplash injury, you could have trouble turning your head from side to side without an increase in pain.
A herniated disc refers to an injury that impacts one or more spinal discs that separate vertebrae in your spine. The spine in your neck, known as the cervical spine, has spinal discs that help provide cushioning and shock absorption for everyday movements and activities. However, the sudden and often violent force on your head and neck from a car accident can put too much pressure on these discs, causing the tough outer shell to become cracked or torn. This allows the gel-like insides of the spinal disc to slip out, which can end up aggravating nearby tissue or nerves and compromise overall support and cushioning to the spine.
A car accident neck injury can also result in a pinched nerve, which can cause pain, tingling, and numbness in the area. There are several ways you could suffer a pinched nerve from a car accident, including swollen muscles or ligaments that aggravate nearby nerves or a herniated disc that impacts nearby nerves. A pinched nerve, also known as a compressed nerve, occurs when the nerve functioning is compromised, which often results in painful and uncomfortable symptoms. A pinched nerve in the neck can cause pain in your neck that may radiate into your shoulder and arm.
Neck Pain Warning Signs to Watch Out For
It is important to note that you might not experience neck pain right away after an accident. In fact, many people don’t realize they suffered a car accident injury immediately after because the shock and adrenaline can mask pain and other symptoms temporarily. Here are a few warning signs to keep an eye out for in the hours and days after a car accident:
Sharp, Stabbing Pain
Let your car accident doctor know if you experience any sharp, stabbing pain in your neck. This pain may occur in one spot, or it could extend into your extremities.
Dull, Throbbing Pain
You also want to watch out for any dull or throbbing pain, which can seem to last for days at a time. Pain that doesn’t seem to go away and feels like it’s pulsing or throbbing can become frustrating if left untreated.
Headaches or Migraines
A neck injury can also trigger headaches or migraines. If you notice an increase in headaches after a car accident, talk to your car accident doctor. Headaches and migraines can be a sign or symptom of a car accident injury that needs medical care.
Reduced Range of Motion
If you experience neck pain along with a reduced range of motion, you might feel a bit alarmed. You may notice that after the car accident, you have trouble turning your head all the way to one side or the other. Reduced range of motion is a common symptom of neck injuries after a car accident.
Tingling & Numbness
Neck injuries that impact nearby nerves can also cause tingling and numbness. To avoid permanent damage to any nerves, you want to get your car accident injuries checked out as soon as possible.
Nausea or Vomiting
If you experience symptoms like nausea or vomiting after a car accident, along with neck pain and other symptoms, you want to get checked out by a car accident doctor to rule out serious injuries like a concussion.
What to Do with Car Accident Neck Pain That Won’t Go Away?
In many cases, neck pain after a car accident will last for anywhere from a few days to a month. To avoid dealing with chronic neck pain after a car accident, get checked out by your car accident doctor as soon as possible. At Pro-Care Medical Centers, our team of car accident doctors will provide you with prompt medical treatment and care for car accident injuries so you can start experiencing relief from neck pain and other symptoms as soon as possible. Our doctors can run the necessary tests and diagnose your specific injury so you can get started on a treatment plan that works for you. From whiplash injuries to spinal injuries, our team of car accident doctors has the knowledge and expertise to treat your car accident injuries and help you avoid the long-term effects of neck injuries.