Spinal Injuries in Car Accidents
The spine stretches from the base of the skull down to the pelvis, and is comprised of 33 bones or vertebrae:
- 7 cervical (neck) vertebrae;
- 12 thoracic (mid spine) vertebrae;
- 5 lumbar (low spine) vertebrae;
- 5 sacral vertebrae; and
- 3 vertebrae in the coccyx, the end of the spinal column.
Between the vertebrae or bones are discs which act like shock absorbers. These discs are prone to injury in car accidents.
Spinal injuries are the most common types of injuries which result from a car or truck accident. Drivers and passengers in cars are in a seated position and as a result, the main areas of injury are the neck and low back.
Neck Injuries in a Car Accident – The Types of Spinal Disc Pathology
Whether it’s a rear end car accident or a major intersection accident, the force of impact often causes pathology at specific points in the cervical spine, C4-5, C5-6 and C6-7. This is because these vertebrae are located at the part of the neck which bends forward and backward.
Neck Strain and Sprain (Whiplash)
After a car accident, an injured individual may notice soreness and stiffness in this area of the neck. This is often called whiplash. These symptoms generally indicate cervical spine strain and sprain and generally get better within several weeks or months after an accident.
Neck Disc Bulges & Herniations
However, over the course of the next few days or weeks, the pain may change. Oftentimes, significant pathology is indicated when pain radiates to other areas, such as the shoulder or into the arms and into the fingertips. For example, pain which radiates into the fingers often indicates a nerve entrapment which could result from a spinal disc herniation. Medical providers may refer to this type of injury as a pinched nerve, bulging disc, or slipped disc. The pain radiates because the disc has moved out of position and is compressing or pinching a nerve.
In most common car accident cases, like rear end car accidents, the neck and low back are the two most common locations of injury. However, it is important to note that with more severe impacts, thoracic spine (mid-back) injuries can and do occur.
Treatment Course for Neck Injuries After a Car Accident
The treatment course varies, depending on the medical history, physical examination, etc. Usually, the normal treatment course for neck disc bulges and herniations is rest with muscle relaxers/pain medication, followed by physical therapy.
If physical therapy does not alleviate the symptoms, diagnostic tests will be ordered which may reveal bulging discs, herniations or both. Depending on the results of those tests, the injured individual may be referred for more physical therapy.
If more physical therapy does not bring relief, then a surgeon or pain management specialist may be recommended. Pain management specialists can offer a variety of treatment options, which include spinal disc corticosteroid injections, and in severe cases, surgical pain relief implants. If a treatment with a pain management specialist does not bring relief, a neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon may recommend surgery.
If you suffered a neck injury as a result of a car accident in Delaware, please call our office to set up a free consultation.
Our lawyers have been helping those injured in car, truck and pedestrian accidents for over 30 years. Our offices are located in Wilmington, Newark and Dover. (302) 658-1717
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