By: Grace Hancock
You may walk away from an accident pain-free, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll remain that way. The day after an accident, you may wake up and feel an instant surge of pain run down your neck that wasn’t there the day before. This is unfortunately a common occurrence for people who’ve recently been injured in a car crash, slip-and-fall, or trip-and-fall accident.
Neck pain caused by a personal injury accident can be debilitating and affect your ability to do day to day tasks, such as going to work or spending time with your family or loved ones. You may have already been told by a medical professional that you’ve suffered a neck injury, or possibly you have a neck injury that’s gone unnoticed and undiagnosed by medical professionals.
There are many things you may be worrying about in this situation: the financial costs of medical attention, how your injury will affect your work, how long your recovery will take. Don’t suffer alone. Our team at Hancock Injury Attorneys is here to help you navigate the difficulties of getting proper medical care and filing a personal injury claim so that you can focus on making a full recovery.
Causes of Neck Pain After a Personal Injury Accident
Typically when someone is experiencing neck pain after an accident, it’s a sign that they’re suffering from whiplash, but that is not always the case. Neck pain after an accident could be indicative of a much more serious injury, like a herniated disc, cervical spondylolisthesis, retrolisthesis, or anterolisthesis, ligament laxity or ligament injury, or compression and other spinal fractures, which is why it’s important that you see a medical professional and receive a proper diagnosis immediately after an accident. These various injuries involving your spinal cord can be related but all have their own definitions:
Whiplash is a sprain or strain type injury that occurs when extreme forces- such as the force of a car collision or the force of hitting your head on the ground after a slip and fall or trip and fall accident- cause your neck to snap back and forth, which then tears or stretches the muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding your spine.
As you may know, your tendons connect your muscles to your bones, whereas your ligaments connect bone to bone. Because your muscles, tendons, and ligaments are essential to your ability to move, any damage to them, minor or severe, can cause you pain and even cause you to lose your range of motion, making once normal daily tasks and occurrences, like something as simple as turning your head to answer a loved one’s question, difficult.
A sprain or strain type injury like whiplash sometimes heals up within 4 to 6 weeks. Depending on the severity of the sprain, you might stretch the muscles, tendons, or ligaments to the point that they develop small tears. When those tears heal up, they heal up with scar tissue and that scar tissue becomes a permanent injury.
Whiplash also often causes you to herniate a disc. A “herniated disc” is a term often thrown around with little to no explanation as to what it actually means. Your spine has intervertebral discs which act as cushions in between each of your vertebrae so that they aren’t just sitting on top of each other; bone to bone.
These intervertebral discs have a tough outer layer and a soft inner layer, almost like a jelly doughnut. When an injury causes the soft inner layer of one or more of your intervertebral discs to come out and press against one or more of your nerves, causing irritation to those nerves, this is called a herniated disc.
Ligamentous laxity, also called ligamentous instability or ligament laxity, refers to loose ligaments in the body. Ligamentous laxity can occur as a result of soft tissue damage caused by a personal injury accident, including car accidents, slip-and-falls, and trip-and-falls. You can think of a ligament as like a big rubber band.
The function of a ligament is to hold bones together, like how a rubber band may hold two folders of paper together. Just like a big rubber band, if you stretch it a little bit, it returns to its normal shape. If you overstretch that rubber band, it may snap or simply never go back to their normal shape. The same thing happens with ligaments. This causes ligament laxity, which never really heals. Because these ligaments never really heal, they are now loose- or lax- and no longer hold your bones nicely and tightly together. Ligament laxity can lead to symptoms such as joint pain and hypermobility of the affected area.
Cervical Spondylolisthesis, Retrolisthesis, and Anterolisthesis
If ligaments surrounding your spine are overstretched or torn in an accident, this could lead to cervical spondylolisthesis, retrolisthesis, or anterolisthesis. You have ligaments holding each of the vertebrae in your neck and down your spine together in a nice shape called a curved lordosis. When you stretch those ligaments beyond their limits and cause laxity, this allows one of the vertebrae to shift forwards or backwards on top of the other one and that is known as cervical spondylolisthesis, retrolisthesis, or anterolisthesis.
Because your vertebrae are now not in a perfect, anatomical position, that can cause pain in of itself because it’s putting pressure like it’s never had before on the joint between the vertebrae, it could be also squeezing or pinching nerves that come out between each of the vertebrae that go down your arm and control sensation in your arm and hands and fingers and the motor function of your arms, hands, and fingers and injuries to your discs.
Cervical spondylolisthesis refers to when one or more of the vertebrae in your spine has dislocated or slipped out of alignment. Retrolisthesis occurs when a vertebrae in the spine slips backward along or underneath a disc. In contrast, anterolisthesis occurs when a vertebrae in the spine slips forward on the one below.
This can cause headaches, pain in your neck, or pain that radiates down your arm into your hands and fingers and also numbness and tingling that radiates into your arms, hands, and fingers. If you have indications of a severe neck injury, you might start developing weakness in your hands and fingers.
Compression and Other Spinal Fractures
Injuries like cervical spondylolisthesis, retrolisthesis, or anterolisthesis often occur due to bone fractures. A compression or other type spinal fracture happens when you’re hit with such force, it could be a car collision or a particularly hard fall, and the force is so great that it shatters or compresses the vertebrae in your spine. These types of injuries occur most commonly in the mid to lower back, but can also happen in the neck.
Seek a Tampa Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one are experiencing neck pain after a car crash, slip-and-fall, or trip-and-fall, don’t suffer in silence. It’s important that you seek the help of a personal injury attorney. An attorney can help not only estimate the costs of your particular neck injury, but we can also make sure you are adequately compensated for your lost wages, pain and suffering and future losses related to the accident. Contact our attorneys at Hancock Injury Attorneys or call us at (813) 534-6463 for a free consultation today.