It’s common for people who’ve been in a car accident to miss an injury they’ve sustained. This happens because the body experiences a sudden shot of adrenaline during the accident, which interrupts the normal pain processing, often reducing your pain perception.

However, once that adrenaline wears off, you may start noticing the aches and pains from the sudden jolt you received. This isn’t just an annoyance but indicates that you’ve sustained an injury, many of which need treatment if you want a full recovery.

Many auto-related injuries focus occur in the neck, and with good reason. Your neck acts as a pedestal to hold your head up, which weighs on average about 11 lbs for most adults. The sudden change in momentum of that massive ball puts tremendous strain on your neck, including its muscles, tendons, nerves, and bones. Consider these five common neck injuries you may experience as a result of being involved in a car accident.

1. Whiplash

One of the most commonly known neck injuries is whiplash. This injury gets its name from the rapid backward and forward head movement that overextends the muscle, ligaments, and joints of the neck.

According to Rush University, an estimated 2 million people experience whiplash every year, including both automobile and other accidents. Symptoms of whiplash range from mild to severe, and commonly include neck pain or stiffness, headaches, shoulder or upper back tenderness, arm tingling or numbness, fatigue, dizziness, and blurred vision.

People react differently to whiplash, including how well they recover. Worse outcomes are often associated with older age, previous whiplash, existing back or neck pain, and a higher speed when the collision occurs. Additionally, how quickly you seek treatment often affects the rate and degree of recovery you’ll experience.

2. Cervical Spondylolisthesis

This is a fancy term to describe a vertebra that has slipped out of place, specifically in the upper part of the spine that runs through your neck. Typically, spondylolisthesis is a degenerative condition caused by changes in the facet joints, which keep the spine in place while allowing it to move, not usually initiated by a car accident.

However, if you already have some degree of spondylolisthesis, it’s very possible that the jarring from a car accident could aggravate the condition. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people who didn’t know they had the beginning stages of the condition to now experience intense symptoms.

Those symptoms can actually mimic those of whiplash, including pain that radiates down the arms, neck stiffness, loss of mobility, numbness and tingling down the arms, and muscle spasms in the neck. The best way to know what you’re dealing with is to have a professional evaluation that includes imaging like an X-ray of the neck.

3. Herniated Disc

Herniated discs are similar to spondylolisthesis in how it presents. The difference here is that it’s the disc that has slipped out of place rather than the vertebra.

Unlike spondylolisthesis, car accidents can and do cause discs to slip out of place, especially in the cervical region. When they slip out of place, they can easily press against the sciatic nerve, which is actually a bundle of nerves that run up and down the spine. When this happens, it can cause referred pain throughout the body, sometimes making it difficult to identify and treat.

While herniated discs can happen from just about any car accident, they are especially common from side-impact collisions. Oftentimes, your doctor can diagnose a herniated disc through a physical exam and taking your medical history. However, in some cases, they may want to run imaging studies like an MRI, CT scan, or possible nerve tests like an EMG to determine the extent of the damage.

4. Neck Sprain

On a less severe scale, but not necessarily less painful, are neck sprains and strains. A sprain is a tear in the ligaments, which is the tissue that connects muscle to bone. These require time to heal and caution to avoid further injuring the area.

A strain, on the other hand, damages the facet joint, tendons, or injures muscles. Symptoms for both strains and sprains include pain in the back of the neck and shoulders, difficulty turning your head, headaches that are worse in the back of the head, and tingling or numbness in the arms or hands. It’s difficult for the common person to tell the difference between a sprain and strain, so have a doctor evaluate your injury for a proper diagnosis.

5. Pinched Nerve

You have probably heard someone say they thought they had a pinched nerve. What this refers to is something in the body being out of place, and pressing on surrounding nerves. In some cases, you may feel the pain at the site of the pinch.

However, other pinches may result in referred pain, such as in the arm, hand, leg, or feet. Referred pain is common when the pinch happens to the sciatic nerve. A trained and experienced chiropractor can often evaluate a pain and tell you if it’s a pinch causing the sensation.

Car accidents are notorious for causing discs, bones, and ligaments to become pushed out of place. This often causes the problematic pinched nerve, which can be easily treated when dealt with right away.

How Chiropractic Care Helps These Injuries

Chiropractic care can help resolve many of these issues, especially when you catch them early. The spinal manipulation puts things back into their proper place so that the body can heal back into homeostasis, or its normal state of being. Manipulations also cause the body to release pain-killing hormones to help relieve the discomfort from your injuries. Finally, it also helps reduce inflammation, which can be a barrier to your body’s healing.

If you’ve been involved in a car accident and live in the Redmond area, call (425) 636-0303 to schedule your initial chiropractic visit today.