The neck, or cervical spine, is one of three main sections of the spinal column and is made up of multiple vertebrae that extend from the skull to the upper torso. Cervical discs in the neck absorb shock between the bones. The bones, ligaments and muscles in the neck support the head and allow for motion. Neck injuries can occur as a result of falling, excessive twisting of the spine, car accidents, head trauma and sports.
Common Types of Neck Injuries
Sprains and Strains: When ligaments, the tissues that connect bones at the joint, are stretched or torn it is called a sprain. Symptoms of this type of injury include pain, swelling, bruising, and the inability to move the affected joint. Falls, excess twisting of the spine, car accidents and getting hit are all things that can cause a sprain. When a tendon, the tissue that connects muscle to bone, is stretched or torn it is referred to as a strain. Strains can occur very suddenly or slowly over time from things like playing sports. Symptoms of a strain include pain, muscle spasms, swelling, and difficulty moving the affected muscle. Shooting pain that spreads to the arm or hand may indicate a pinched nerve.
Herniated Disk: A herniated, or ruptured disk occurs when a disk in the spine is ruptured. Disks serve as a cushion between each of the 26 vertebrae that make up the spinal column. They are soft and filled with a jelly-like substance and when one is ruptured the substance begins to leak out, irritating the surrounding nerves. Symptoms of a herniated disk in the neck include pain, headache, feeling dizzy, nausea, and pain in the shoulders and arms.
Spinal Fracture: Fracturing any of the vertebra that make up the spine can be quite serious and result in damage to the spinal cord. A fracture or dislocation of a vertebra can cause pinching or damage to the spinal cord due to bone fragments in the area. Most spinal fractures occur from car accidents, falls, gunshot wounds, sports or blunt force trauma. This type of injury can cause symptoms such as mild to severe pain and if there is spinal cord damage you may have difficulty walking or even lose the ability to move your arms and legs (paralysis).
What Are The Symptoms Associated With a Neck Injury?
The symptoms experienced after a neck injury can vary depending on how the injury was sustained as well as the severity of the injury. Often times those dealing with a neck injury will experience pain and discomfort to some degree, however with proper care the pain will normally subside within 3 weeks. Some of the symptoms that can result from a neck injury include:
- Pain, swelling and bruising
- Difficulty moving the affected joints or muscles
- Headache, nausea and feeling dizzy
- Shooting pain in the shoulders, arms and hand
- Numbness or loss of feeling in the arms or legs
Should I See a Doctor?
If you have been in a recent accident or fall and you are experiencing pain that is accompanied by additional symptoms, you should see your doctor right away. Some neck injuries are more severe than others and require immediate medical attention and proper treatment. Strains and sprains of the neck are not usually a cause for concern and will resolve on their own.
Treatment From a Healthcare Professional
Depending on the symptoms and how the injury was sustained, your doctor may recommend one or more imaging tests in order to identify the type of injury, the severity of the injury and the best way to treat it. Treatment may include:
- Prescription narcotics such as Codeine or Hydrocodone for pain relief over a short period of time
- Muscle relaxants
- Physical Therapy
- Use of a neck brace
Ways to Alleviate Pain After a Neck Injury
For less severe neck injuries there are over-the-counter pain relievers, like Aleve and Ibuprofen, that are effective in reducing pain and inflammation. Alternating between hot and cold compresses can also help relieve neck and muscle pain after an injury.
Places to Get Help
Get excellent bone and joint treatment from the top doctors at OrthoArizona – Arizona Orthopaedic Associates.