NECK INJURY - MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE SOLICITORS
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A neck injury can occur as a result of a motor vehicle accident, a sport's accident or a fall. It can damage the soft tissue of the neck, including the muscles, the bones of the neck and even the spinal cord. If the spinal cord is injured, there is a chance of paralysis of the upper and lower extremities, as well as the trunk. Most injuries just damage soft tissues, which means putting on ice and heat to heal the muscles and ligaments of the neck. Anti-inflammatory medication can be used to break the inflammation in the muscles, tendons and ligaments.
A neck injury can be as simple as having a crick or kink in the neck. This can happen if you sleep wrong or due to working on the computer or watching television for too long in one position. You can use home remedies to ease the pain and tension in the tendons and ligaments and the problem usually goes away after a few days.
You can get a muscle strain in the neck. This is an injury to the muscles that make the neck move. Strains can occur in the neck from a fall or sudden injury. Even a minor motor vehicle accident can cause a muscle strain in the neck. There can be muscle spasm, which often responds to muscle relaxants. You can use nonsteroidal anti inflammatory medications to ease the inflammation of the muscles. A neck sprain is similar to a muscle sprain except that the ligaments are involved. It can be caused by over-twisting of the neck that stretches the ligaments. The neck is painful and can even swell in places. If you ice the affected area and take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, you can resolve a neck strain relatively easily.
Severe neck injuries involve the bones and the spinal cord or the nerves exiting the spinal cord. These are more complex injuries involving more treatment and disability. A neck injury severe enough can result in death. One severe neck injury is called whiplash. It is a flexion-extension injury that often occurs by a sport's injury, fall or most likely, a motor vehicle accident. Whiplash injuries irritate the nerve roots causing pain in the extremities, most likely the upper extremities. The spinal cord can be irritated from this type of injury. You can get neck pain, weakness, numbness or tingling of the extremities, stiffness of the neck, dizzy feelings and problems sleeping. You can get the symptoms at the time of the accident or can get the symptoms a day or two later-after the swelling of the nerves and tissues take place.
In more severe neck injuries, you can get a ruptured disc in the neck. This happens when the nucleus pulposis inside the disc of the neck ruptures out into the space where the spinal nerves or the spinal cord is present. This can put excess pressure on these nerves and is a very painful injury. A sudden injury to the neck can cause this to happen or it can happen due to a repetitive injury to the neck. Treatment usually requires physical therapy and possibly surgery to remove the displaced disc material.
Athletes have a condition called "stingers and burners", which involves a stretching or temporary injury to the nerve root or to the brachial plexus. It is common in athletes and represents a danger to the integrity of the brachial plexus, a collection of nerves exiting the neck and located in the underarm area. It results in a burning pain, a stinging pain and numbness or weakness of the upper extremity after a particularly hard hit to the neck. Sometimes it lasts only about a minute but can last longer. If the symptoms last longer than just a few minutes, you should seek medical advice. Your risk for a stinger or a burner is higher if you have a narrowing of the spinal canal, called stenosis. You may need to retire from the sport if this sort of thing happens often.
A neck fracture involves a break in the bone of the neck. It can be displaced or non-displaced. If the joint is displaced, it can cause damage to the spinal cord. A neck fracture needs immobilization along with surgery to connect the bony fragments and keep the spinal cord stable.
Medical Negligence Solicitors
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Neck Injury Overview
Neck injuries can be mild or severe. Day to day movements of the neck can cause ligamentous tears and arthritic changes in the cervical spine. More severe injuries can come from sports, home accidents, work related issues and recreational injuries.
Neck pain can be like stiffness, a sharp pain in the neck or a “kink” in the neck. The pain can travel to the shoulders, head or down the back. It can hurt more on one side of the body than the other and there can be limitations to the overall movement of the neck from side to side and from forward and back.
When referring to the neck, one is referring to the vertebrae of the neck, the intervertebral disks that absorb shock between the vertebrae, muscles around the neck and the ligaments that hold the cervical spine together.
Neck pain can be caused by a number of activities, including:
- Leaning your head forward to look at a computer screen or to read.
- Using a pillow that is too flat or too high
- Sleeping on your stomach with neck twisted.
- Stress from life circumstances.
- Certain exercises and working conditions.
You can have sudden injuries to the neck. For example, you can trip and fall a short distance or can suddenly twist the spine. You can get whiplash from a motor vehicle accident, from falls at a great height, from direct blows to the head, from sports injuries, from a penetrating trauma to the neck and in situations like a strangulation attempt.
The pain from a sudden injury to the neck can be severe and come on quickly. There can be the relatively quick onset of swelling and bruising. The injury can come on and can affect the muscles or ligaments of the neck in what can be termed a sprain or strain. You can have aching pain and stiffness in a muscle sprain. A pinched nerve will often show up as shooting pains heading down the arm. It is a bigger problem if shooting pains go down the neck and arms on both sides of the spine.
If you have a fracture/dislocation of the spine, you can get an injury to the spinal cord that can lead to paralysis. This is why immobilization is so important following an acute trauma. If a disc has ruptured and if the tear is big enough, the nucleus pulposus will leak out and push on the spinal cord. Headaches are often associated with nausea, vomiting and neck pain.
Symptoms of a spinal cord trauma include numbness, tingling, paralysis, or weakness of the arms and/or legs. There can be problems controlling the muscles and a lack of bladder or bowel control.
Neck pain might not be injury-related. It can come from arthritis due to a lifetime of wear and tear. The arthritis can pinch a nerve. Neck pain can be related to a case of meningitis, which is either bacterial or viral. Inflammation can build up to the area of the spinal cord and can cause a headache, fever, vomiting and a stiff neck. The flu can cause a stiff neck similar to having a case of meningitis. In such cases the stiffness is not just associated with the neck. Certain kinds of heart attach can show up as chest pain and neck pain together. Just being stressed and tensed can lead to neck pain. There is a condition known as torticollis in which there is a permanent shift of the head to one side. It tends to last several days. It can present itself as a congenital problem that needs therapy to resolve.
There is treatment for neck pain that is different for different situations. First aid measures are used along with physical therapy and chiropractic care. Muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory medications can be used with surgery as a last resort. The overall treatment varies according to the location and severity of the condition along with the patient’s age, health status and activity level.
HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634
The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here