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What to Do About Neck Pain After a North Carolina Car Accident

Neck pain is a very common symptom after a car accident in North Carolina, and it can be one of the most frustrating after-effects of a crash. When your neck hurts, everything hurts, and neck pain can range from tolerable to completely disabling.

Whatever the cause, pain is your body’s way to tell you that something is wrong. If you’re experiencing neck pain after a car wreck, it’s important to pay attention to your symptoms, take the feedback coming from your body seriously, and see a doctor for medical care and treatment right away.

Furthermore, if someone else caused the crash that injured you, it’s important to talk with an experienced car accident attorney right away. You may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. An attorney can help you understand your legal rights and your options to recover compensation for your injuries.

What’s Causing My Neck Pain After a Car Crash?

Close-up of a person's hand massaging their neck due to neck pain

Your neck is an incredibly complex structure that contains bones, cartilage, joints, nerves, muscles, soft tissues, and your spinal cord (which is technically a big bundle of nerves). Any of these structures can be damaged or injured in a car accident or other traumatic event, which means there are many different types and experiences of neck pain.

Some of the most common types of neck pain that people experience after a car wreck include:

  • Acute neck pain: For some people, a neck injury creates neck pain that is immediate, obvious, and severe. Usually, this level of immediate pain requires swift medical treatment.
  • Delayed neck pain: Not all neck injuries create severe pain right away. In some cases, victims only begin to feel neck pain days or even weeks after an injury. In other cases, the neck pain seems mild or tolerable at first but then keeps getting worse over time.
  • Chronic neck pain: Neck injuries are notorious for creating pain and other symptoms that can linger for months or even years. When neck pain persists over a long period of time, it’s called chronic neck pain.
  • Nerve pain: Neck injuries can damage or put pressure on your nerves, which might create nerve pain. Many people who suffer nerve pain describe it as a shooting, stabbing, or burning sensation, almost like an electric shock. Episodes of nerve pain might happen when you move or turn your neck, but they also can come seemingly out of nowhere.
  • Joint pain: A joint is a spot where two bones connect, and your neck has several joints. If the connective tissue in these joints get damaged, it can cause pain and affect your ability to move, turn, and flex your neck.
  • Muscle pain and spasms: Muscle pain is often described as a dull, aching, or shooting type of pain. Meanwhile, a muscle spasm can feel like a sudden tightening, cramping, or stiffening of your neck muscles. Either type of pain can signal a serious injury to your neck muscles.
  • Frequent headaches: Neck injuries can create pain that doesn’t even feel like it’s coming from your neck, and chronic headaches are a prime example. If you’re experiencing frequent headaches after a crash, it could be a symptom of a serious spinal or neck injury.

Several different types of neck injuries can cause the types of pain listed. Some of the most common neck injuries include:

Herniated discs

Discs are rubbery structures that sit between the bones of your spine and cushion them. Each disc has a firm outer layer and a soft interior. When a disc gets injured and the firm exterior gets torn open, the soft inside part can bulge out. This injury is often called a herniated or ruptured disc.

Bone fractures

Your bones that are built to withstand day-to-day jolts and impacts, but the massive force of a car accident can easily break them. When a bone breaks — either partially or completely—it’s called a fracture. The bones in your neck are complicated and critical to the function of your neck and back, so any fracture in these bones can lead to serious and painful consequences.

Pinched nerves

When the tissues or bones around a nerve are damaged, they can swell or move and press on the nerve directly. This condition, known as a pinched nerve or compressed nerve, can lead to intense, electric shock-like nerve pain. The shocks can travel down your arms and into your fingers.

Facet joint injuries

The spot where two bones connect is called a joint, and the joints that connect the bones of your spine are called facet joints. Each joint has connective tissue that links the bones together and allows them to move. If this connective tissue gets damaged, it can cause pain and restrict the bones’ ability to move. Facet joint injuries often result in pain when moving your neck or head. A joint injury to your neck can also be called a neck sprain.

Soft tissue injuries

“Soft tissue” refers to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that enable your neck (and other body parts) to move. Damage to these soft tissues can cause pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion.

Spinal cord injuries

The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that runs through your back and into the brain. This nerve bundle is an extremely critical structure that brings signals from your brain to the rest of the body and vice versa. Injuries to the spinal nerves can be life-altering or even life-threatening.

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What Is Whiplash?

A man showing a medical professional where he has a pain in his neck

It’s a surprisingly common experience for car wreck victims: their neck feels okay for hours, a day, or even several days after the crash. Then, suddenly, neck pain, stiffness, and headaches begin to set in. And in many cases, the victim doesn’t even remember hitting their head or neck in the crash at all. What in the world is going on?

This type of experience is very common among car wreck victims who suffer from whiplash, which is a type of neck strain. A whiplash injury can happen when a car accident causes your head and neck to whip violently back and forth immediately after impact; you don’t necessarily have to hit your head.

The symptoms of whiplash can include:

  • Pain, decreased range of motion, and tightness in the neck
  • A feeling that your neck muscles are hard or knotted
  • Pain when rocking your head from side to side or back and forth
  • Pain or stiffness when moving your head to look over your shoulder
  • Tenderness and aching
  • Headaches at the base of the skull that radiate toward the forehead

Whiplash injuries can heal on their own over time, but some victims of car accidents suffer from symptoms for a long time after a crash. As with other neck injuries, it’s important to take your whiplash symptoms seriously, communicate them to your doctor, and receive any treatment your doctor recommends.

Insurance companies are notorious for dismissing the very real pain and suffering of whiplash victims after a wreck, so it’s extremely important to build a medical record of your diagnosis, treatments, and medical bills. Your attorney can use this medical evidence to show the real costs of your injury when the insurance company tries to minimize your pain or argue that your injury isn’t related to the crash.

Whiplash is a common sports injury as well, so if you participate in any kind of sporting or outdoor activities, the insurance company may try to blame those activities for your neck pain. Again, the best way to counter this type of tactic from the insurance company is to communicate with your doctor about what you are experiencing and work with an experienced attorney who can put together strong evidence and arguments that prove the real cause of your injuries.

RELATED: 3 Reasons You Should Get Medical Treatment After a Car Accident

What Should I Do About My Neck Pain After a Car Accident?

A medical professional discussing test results with a patient

Whenever neck pain sets in after a car wreck, it’s important to talk to your doctor right away and tell them what you’re experiencing. A capable doctor should recognize the potential seriousness of a neck injury and perform a thorough evaluation, which may include diagnostic tests like an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI.

Make sure to tell the doctor all the symptoms you’re experiencing, such as pain, stiffness, headaches, or even symptoms that seem unrelated like dizziness or a ringing in your ears. Many people who suffer neck injuries in a car crash also suffered head or brain injuries, and telling your doctor all your symptoms can be critical to getting an accurate diagnosis of all the injuries you’ve suffered.

If your doctor recommends medical treatment or follow-up appointments, make sure to follow the recommended treatment plan exactly. Not following your doctor’s advice can not only compromise your health, but hurt your legal case too.

What Are the Most Common Medical Treatments for Neck Pain After a Car Crash?

Treatments for neck injuries can include any or all of the following:

  • Surgery, including initial emergency surgery and later follow-up surgeries; some victims require many surgeries to improve as much as possible
  • Injections of steroids like cortisone that can reduce inflammation and swelling
  • Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, including pain medication and anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture and other complementary therapies recommended by your doctor

Home remedies such as ice, moist heat, and stretching can also provide some pain relief and symptom relief. You shouldn’t try to use at-home care as a substitute for proper medical treatment from a healthcare provider, but home remedies can complement your treatment plan and might make your pain and symptoms more tolerable, especially between scheduled treatments or between doses of prescribed medication.

RELATED: What to Do if You Have Back Pain After a Car Accident

Can I Get Compensation for My Neck Pain After a Car Accident in North Carolina?

An attorney discussing a case with a client

The law in North Carolina gives injured victims the right to file a personal injury claim and recover financial compensation when they suffer injuries and losses because of someone else’s negligence. The process of building a personal injury claim should start as soon as possible after the car wreck or other injury-causing event.

A successful personal injury claim involves first proving that another person’s negligence caused your injuries. Then, you and your attorney need to prove the total damages, which are all the costs and losses that resulted from the negligent behavior.

Proving negligence requires a careful, thorough investigation of the crash, which may include analyzing forensic evidence and hiring specialists to re-create the crash and demonstrate what caused it. And proving your damages requires lots of evidence, including complete records from every hospital, doctor, pharmacy, and healthcare provider you’ve visited for treatment related to the crash. For victims who are suffering chronic pain or life-altering injuries, it might be necessary to consult with a specialist who can estimate the costs of those injuries and symptoms going forward.

If building a complex and detailed legal case while you’re recovering from car wreck injuries sounds exhausting and overwhelming, don’t worry—you don’t have to. An experienced personal injury lawyer should be able to handle all the details of pursuing a personal injury claim and building a case, including gathering medical evidence, communicating with the insurance company, and investigating the crash to uncover all the factors that caused it.

Meanwhile, you can focus on your recovery and your medical treatment while checking in with your lawyer as needed. At some point, the insurance company may require you to answer questions during a deposition or attend a medical exam conducted by a doctor of their choice, but your attorney should let you know when to expect these events and help you prepare for them.

Although your attorney will do most of the work, you can make your case even stronger with some record-keeping of your own. As you recover from your injuries, it helps to keep a diary or journal that describes all of your symptoms, costs, and lost wages as well as the ways in which the injury has affected your life and your mental and physical heath. Together with the medical evidence from your treatment and recovery, your own records can help your attorney build a powerful and accurate picture of all the damages you’ve suffered because of the car wreck that injured you.

Myers Law Firm Is Ready to Make Your Personal Injury Concerns Our Own

Myers Law Firm is ready to meet with you to discuss your car accident case and review important documents. We can take this information to do our own investigation and then reach out to the insurance company on your behalf. We’ll work through the negotiation process, followed by filing a lawsuit if the insurance company doesn’t offer a reasonable settlement. 

Our initial consultation is free, and from there, we’ll work with you to build a case for the compensation you’re entitled to under North Carolina law. Our experienced, compassionate team is ready to stand up for you. 

Contact us today by calling (888) 376-2889 or complete our simple online contact form to schedule your free consultation.

Neck strain and whiplash. (n.d.). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/neck-strain-whiplash

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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