Acute neck pain, also known as whiplash, is one of the most common motor vehicle accident injuries. Patients in collisions with resulting neck pain often are transported to the emergency department via ambulance where emergency physicians will evaluate the severity of the neck injury. Let’s take a look at the structure of the neck and how modern car designs have tried to mitigate the number of neck strain cases.
Anatomy of the Neck
The cervical spine is the section of spine that starts at the base of the skull and ends just above the shoulders. It has seven vertebrae that allow people to twist and turn their heads while keeping their body straight. These bones are some of the smallest in your spine and incredibly delicate. Severe fractures to the cervical vertebrae can often result in arm function loss, quadriplegia, or required use of a ventilator to breathe.
Cervical discs lie in between the vertebrae and act as glue that holds the vertebrae together. These discs also help cushion the vertebrae from normal everyday impacts. Cervical discs often take the brunt of collision injuries by slipping, bulging, or breaking. When this happens, the cervical nerves in the spinal cord get pinched or the vertebrae no longer have cushioning and rub against each other causing intense pain. People with cervical disc injuries are more likely to need surgery at some point in the future.
Injuries to the cervical spine can be severely life-threatening. A person involved in a
motor vehicle collision that lists neck pain at the scene of the collision may be required to be transported to the emergency department wearing a C-collar or neck brace to keep their neck immobile. This collar prevents the person from exacerbating their cervical spine injuries through neck movements.
Vehicle Head Restraints
Head restraints, often shortened to headrests, were at first an optional feature in vehicles. It was not until January 1, 1969, when head restraints were legally required in all manufactured vehicles. The design of the headrest helps keep the head in line with the torso during an impact, which helped lessen the number of neck injuries during collisions.
Prior to the introduction of the head restraint, there were over 400,000 reported cases per year of whiplash and cervical strain. Since head restraints were required the number of whiplash cases has gone down significantly and continues to decrease with every new headrest design.
Vehicle manufacturers rigorously test front-seat headrest dynamics during their safety inspections. The test criteria are: time-to-head-restraint contact, torso acceleration, maximum neck- shear force, and maximum neck-torque force. On test conclusion, the headrests are given a rating, the highest being “Good,” while the lowest is categorized as “Poor”. Restraints listed as “Good” prevent more neck injuries than any other rating.
What Can I Do about My Neck Pain after a Motor Vehicle Collision?
Pain medication, whether prescribed or over-the-counter, doesn’t treat the underlying cause of neck pain following a motor vehicle collision. Experienced injury attorneys can help you obtain treatment that gets you back to your pre-injury status, often at little or no up-front cost to you.
The Advocates have been helping clients with neck pain following a motor vehicle collision for many years. If you are experiencing such issues, we can help get you fairly compensated for not only the medical bills that will start piling up, but also for the impact the neck pain has had on the enjoyment of your daily life. Our consultations are always free!