Last Updated: 10/25/2023
Cervical strain occurs when the muscles or tendons in the neck are overstretched or torn. It can occur in a car accident when the sudden force of impact forces the head in a rapid back-and-forth or side-to-side motion. The injury is also often referred to as hyperflexion-hyperextension injuries or whiplash.
The Anatomy of a Cervical Strain
If you have been experiencing neck pain, you may have a cervical strain, which is an injury to the ligaments, tendons, and muscles in your neck. Soft tissue injuries can damage blood vessels, causing blood to pool in muscle tissue. This will irritate the muscle, causing pain and spasms.
The pooling of blood can also cause scar tissue, which can alter muscle structure, causing changes in soft tissues and spurring additional pain and spasms. An MRI is often ordered to detect muscle changes related to a cervical strain.
Your cervical disc could also be a cause of pain related to cervical strain when tiny tears in the disc place pressure on your joints. For temporary relief, pain medication can be injected into the disc.
Symptoms of Cervical Strain
Neck strains are painful, frustrating, and reduce the range of motion. Some of the symptoms of neck strain injuries are listed below.
- Pain, tenderness, and tightness in the neck
- Knotted or hard muscles in the neck region
- Pain in the shoulders or arms
- An inability to fully turn your head in its normal range of motion
- Numbness or weakness in your arms or hands
- Muscle spasms
It’s important to note that while some cervical strain injuries are apparent right away, others may take time to manifest. Also, if you suffered a blow to the head or your head was jolted violently in the crash, you may have suffered a concussion as well.
This is why it’s important for car accident victims to get a thorough examination after the accident even if there are no visible signs of injury. If any of the above symptoms are evident in the days after an accident, see a doctor so he/she can provide diagnosis and treatment. Medical records will also be helpful to substantiate a claim.
Classifications of Cervical Strain Injuries
Cervical strains and sprains are categorized by their degree of severity. The following is based on recommendations from the Quebec Taskforce on Whiplash-Associated Disorders.
- Grade 0: With a grade 0 injury, patients have no physical signs or complaints.
- Grade 1: With this grade, patients have only stiffness and tenderness.
- Grade 2: Grade 2 strains cause musculoskeletal signs such as decreased range of motion and point tenderness.
- Grade 3: Patients with grade 3 strains demonstrate the above symptoms as well as neurologic signs such as weakness, and sensory and reflex changes.
- Grade 4: The most severe type of cervical strain, grade 4 injuries are characterized by a fracture and/or dislocation, in addition to the above symptoms.
Treating a Cervical Strain Injury
The sooner you are treated for a cervical strain injury, the better. “Early rehabilitation helps to prevent chronic pain and disability,” notes Oregon K Hunter Jr, MD on Medscape.
Some of the treatments often used are listed below.
- Applications of heat and/or ice
- Electrical stimulation
- Neck braces
- Myofascial release
- Cervical traction
- Doctor-recommended stretching and strengthening neck exercises
- Medications, such as pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, and sleep aids. (“Pain must be treated aggressively and appropriately,” according to Dr. Hunter.)
Contact a Lawyer in Iowa after a Neck Injury from a Car Accident
Cervical strain injuries can be somewhat difficult to prove on a claim because many of these types of injuries don’t show up on x-rays or other medical tests. You can speak with an attorney about how to collect evidence to prove your claim and what steps you should take improve your chances of being adequately compensated for injuries.