By: Grace Hancock
You may walk away from an accident pain-free, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll remain that way. The day after an accident, you may wake up feeling a surge of pain in your neck that wasn’t there 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. You may have already been told by a medical professional that you’ve suffered a neck injury. Or, you may have a neck injury that’s gone unnoticed and undiagnosed by medical professionals.
There are many things you may worry 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. We take care of filing your personal injury claim so 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. This is not always the case. Neck pain after an accident could be indicative of a much more serious injury. These injuries could include a herniated disc, cervical spondylolisthesis, retrolisthesis, or anterolisthesis, ligament laxity or ligament injury, or compression, and other spinal fractures. This 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 strain-type injury that occurs when extreme forces cause your neck to snap back and forth and tear or stretch 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 can cause you pain. You can even lose your range of motion, making once normal daily tasks 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 to what it actually means. Your spine has intervertebral discs which act as cushions between each of your vertebrae. This is 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. This condition can happen as a result of soft tissue damage.
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. 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 never go back to its normal shape. The same thing happens with ligaments. This causes ligament laxity, which never heals. Because these ligaments never really heal, they are now loose- or lax- and no longer hold your bones nicely 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 overstretch or tear 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 backward on top of the other. This is known as cervical spondylolisthesis, retrolisthesis, or anterolisthesis.
Because your vertebrae are now not in a perfect, anatomical position, that can cause pain in 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 vertebra in the spine slips backward along or underneath a disc. In contrast, anterolisthesis occurs when a vertebra 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. Compression or another type of spinal fracture happens when you’re hit with a force that 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 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. Our attorneys can help not only estimate the costs of your particular neck injury, but 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.