When should you watch for whiplash, and what symptoms should you watch for? What are the long-term consequences of a neck injury in a car accident? Neck pain and stiffness, headaches, blurred vision, and shoulder, arm, or back pain are some of the most common symptoms to be alert for. Untreated, a neck injury can significantly reduce the individual's quality of life, earning capacity, and overall health.
The Mechanics of Neck Injuries
When a rear-end collision occurs, the seat moves in the direction of the impact, while the back of the seat moves towards the passenger. As this occurs, the lower section of the neck straightens and the head moves back towards the headrest. This causes a hyperextension of the neck. This hyperextension can damage the facet joint tissue, the vertebrae, ligaments, muscles, and nerves.
Types of Injuries
Neck injuries can occur in any type of vehicle accident. However, 85% occur in rear-end collisions. These types of abrupt accidents cause a hyperextension of the neck that is similar to the cracking of a whip. The resulting injury is similar to muscle strains and can cause pain to radiate throughout the area and can significantly limit the individual's range of motion. Following an accident, individuals can also suffer facet joint impingement which causes the cartilage inside the facet joint to break down and become inflamed. This causes persistent inflammation that triggers pain signals. It is also possible to suffer spinal cord compression. Spinal cord compression can cause pain, numbness, and weakness. Following an accident, spinal cord compression generally worsens over time.
In 2007, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) estimated that between 15-40% of individuals who suffer a neck injury in a car crash will develop chronic neck pain. In these instances, the cervical facet joint was the most frequent source of chronic pain. Of those who suffered chronic pain, 20% experienced a delay between the accident and the development of persistent symptoms. Alarmingly, 5-10% of patients studied went on to develop permanent partial or total disability.
Acute neck injuries such as whiplash do not heal quickly. The AAOS determined that at 3 months post accident, 44% of individuals had not recovered. At 6 months, that dropped to 30%. At one year, 24% were not fully recovered. At two years, 18% still exhibited symptoms of a whiplash injury. Thus, the study results make it clear that the greatest opportunity for healing and recovery occurs in the first six months which highlights the importance of early recognition and treatment following a motor vehicle accident.
Call us at 1-800-241-BRAD or call us on our local line at 316-684-4400. Brad Pistotnik Law gives free legal consultations to clients pursuing claims for a neck injury. We give emergency legal consultations on weekends, holidays and at night. You can call Brad Pistotnik on his cell at 316-706-5020. You can reach Tony Atterbury on his cell at 316-617-9237.