The Cervical Spine
The human neck is part of the spine. In medicine, it’s known as the cervical spine. It begins at the base of the skull, and it’s composed of seven vertebrae. Those are known as C1 through C7. Between each of those vertebrae are cartilaginous discs that act as cushions or shock absorbers when we walk, run, twist or turn. The spinal cord passes through the cervical vertebrae inside of the spinal canal. It starts at the base of the brain, and it extends down about 18 inches. The cervical vertebrae protect the spinal cord in that portion of the spine. The cervical spine also has a curve to it that’s known as the lordotic curve. That curve also acts as a shock absorber.
Common Types of Neck Trauma
Given its delicate structure, there are many types of neck injuries. They differ in severity. Here are a few of them:
- Whiplash. This injury is also known as a hyperextension-hyperflexion or acceleration-deceleration injury. The most common scenario for a whiplash injury is a rear-end auto accident. In less than a second, the head is violently thrown forward and back again. Damage to the cervical spine ligaments, discs, vertebrae and muscles can cause severe pain. Some people never recover from a whiplash injury.
- Bulging disc. Much like a hamburger that’s too big for its bun, the cartilage part of a spinal disc might be caused to bulge out due to injury. This bulging can put pressure on spinal nerves and cause pain and discomfort.
- Herniated disc. Inside of each spinal disc is the nucleus pulposus which is a jelly-like substance that aids in absorbing shock. If the cartilage around it breaks, the jelly-like substance leaks out. In turn, that puts pressure on the cervical spinal nerve next to it. That pressure causes neck, shoulder and arm pain along with tingling in the fingers.
- Cervical spine fracture. These are very serious fractures, especially if they involve bone fragments penetrating the spinal cord. Permanent paralysis or death could result from any cervical spine fracture.
- Spinal cord tear. A partial tear will result in paraplegia. A complete tear of the spinal cord would result in quadriplegia.
Symptoms of Traumatic Neck Injuries
People who suffer severe neck pain after an accident should be seen in an emergency room right away. Here are some common symptoms of a neck injury:
- Muscle spasms. A person’s neck muscles will feel tight and knotted.
- Muscle ache. Neck muscles will be tender with trigger points.
- Stiffness and loss of range of motion.
- Dull aching headaches.
- Nerve pain across the shoulder and down an arm. Fingers might tingle or feel numb.
Treatment for neck trauma depends on the nature and extent of the injury. Treatment can vary from conservative applications of cold and heat with over-the-counter medications and exercises to complex surgery by an orthopedist or neurosurgeon. If you suffered a traumatic neck injury as a result of the carelessness and negligence of somebody else, you’re probably entitled to seek damages for items like your medical expenses, lost earnings, disfigurement, disability, pain and suffering and loss of a normal life.
Contact a Louisville Personal Injury Lawyer
You’ll want to speak with us about any neck trauma that you suffered in or around Louisville, Lexington, Southern Indiana or across the state of Kentucky as a result of the carelessness and negligence of somebody else.