Seven bones, the top seven vertebrae of the spine, support the human neck. Physicians call these the cervical vertebrae—“cervical” meaning “of the neck”—and number them from the top down as C1, C2, and so on through C7. At the base of the neck, the cervical vertebrae connect to the twelve thoracic vertebrae, which connect the spine to the ribs.
Each vertebra has the shape of a flattened cylinder of bone, somewhat resembling a spool of thread. The spinal cord is threaded through the center of each bone. A spongy cushion, called a spinal disc, is found between each vertebra. The disc acts as shock absorber, but its chief function is to allow the spine to flex and twist as needed for mobility.
The structure of the spine works to provide maximum protection to the spinal cord, the nerve bundle that carries messages between the brain and the rest of the body. Unfortunately, this protective system is not perfect. Motor vehicle accidents of all sorts are notorious for damaging the bones and muscles of the neck, causing devastating and sometimes irreparable injuries.
The first two cervical vertebrae, C1 and C2, are especially vulnerable to injury, both because they directly support the weight of the skull and because they have the greatest range of motion to allow the head to move freely in all directions.
Common neck injuries after North Carolina traffic accidents
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, neck sprains and strains are the most frequently reported injuries in insurance claims in the United States. But frequency is not the same thing as severity. In truth, the majority of motor vehicle neck injuries are what doctors call soft tissue injuries: damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments rather than to the spine. Soft tissue injuries are often very painful, but they rarely represent permanent damage or pose life-threatening risks.
Typical symptoms of a neck injury after a car or truck accident can include:
- Pain or numbness in the neck, jaw, shoulders, arms, or hands
- Stiffness, weakness, or inability to move the head, neck, arms, or hands
The most important fact to remember is that the initial symptoms of a severe and urgent neck injury can be the same as the symptoms for a lesser injury. Therefore, if you show any signs of neck damage after a vehicle accident, it is essential you get an immediate medical evaluation.
The four most common neck injuries that clients report to our Wilmington personal injury law firm are:
- Neck strains. Pain results when muscle fibers in the neck or face are torn, stretched, or twisted. The sudden acceleration and momentum shifts of vehicular accidents can easily damage neck muscles.
- Neck sprains. These are similar to strain injuries, except they involve ligaments rather than muscles. Ligaments are fibrous tissues that connect bones together and reinforce joints. When the ligaments in the neck are torn or stretched, the usual result is inflammation and soreness.
- Herniated discs. A sudden trauma can cause the protective disc between two vertebrae to burst. This allows sections of spinal bone to grind against each other. The fluid from the ruptured disc may irritate nerve fibers, causing significant pain.
- Pinched nerves. Bundles of nerves branch off from the spinal cord to all areas of the body; the nerves from the cervical section of the spine mostly communicate with the arms and hands. When one of these nerves is irritated by a bone spur or pinched between two vertebrae, the symptoms can range from intense pain to weakness to a loss of sensation. Often the sensation will be displaced to where the nerve extends, so a neck injury can cause severe symptoms in the wrist or fingers.
Recovery from neck injuries
If you have suffered a neck injury following a traffic accident—or any other kind of accident—caused by someone else’s negligence, the Wilmington personal injury attorneys at Speaks Law Firm may be able to secure financial compensation for you. For a FREE evaluation of your case, call our office at 910-341-7570 or toll-free at 877-593-4233.
We guarantee that at Speaks Law Firm—where every client is our most important client—you will be treated with courtesy and respect. Connect with us today and learn how our legal representation can help you.