Since the neck is located between the head and the rest of the body, it has many crucial structure-related functions. For example, the neck makes turning the head for better visibility possible. It also carries vital blood supply to the brain.

While whiplash might be the most well-known car accident injury, there are many others that can cause pain, reduce strength, and potentially lead to significant long-term health issues. According to statistics published in 2020, neck injuries account for 869,000 car accident injuries seen in emergency rooms each year. The five most common types of neck injuries are neck sprains or strains, neck fractures, spinal cord injuries, spinal disc injuries, and neck dislocations. Our Denver Chiropractic team hopes the following guide will help you better understand these injuries.

Neck Sprain or Strain

Neck sprains or strains are more frequently referred to as whiplash and account for 841,000 of all car accident-related neck injuries each year. Although the terms sprain and strain are commonly interchanged, they are not the same injury. A sprain is a ligament injury, and a strain is a tendon injury. Since ligaments connect bones to other bones and tendons connect bones to muscles, they each require treatment.

While these are different injuries, they are both caused when the added forces of an accident excessively stretch them. Although this process occurs quickly, it can make movement painful and difficult for quite some time. If you’re involved in an accident while traveling more than 30 miles per hour, you’re likely to face more extensive injuries that include a longer recovery.

Neck Fracture or Compression Fracture

At 23,500 documented emergency room visits annually, fractures are the second most common car accident-related neck injury. A neck fracture is always severe enough to warrant immediate medical attention. Since the bones in the neck are so close to vital structures such as nerves and blood vessels, the neck is carefully immobilized by emergency crews for transport to the hospital following an accident.

You can chip or crack one of the vertebrae in your neck. This can put surrounding structures in jeopardy. Another type of neck fracture is a compression fracture. This is when the bone is completely shattered. Either injury can result in death or injury such as paralysis or spinal cord injury.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries may occur with or without a neck fracture. This type of injury accounts for 2,800 of all car accident-related neck injuries each year. Since the top of the spinal cord is in the neck, spinal cord injuries at this level can affect most of the body since spinal cord injury symptoms occur at or below the area of injury.

The spinal cord relays movement and sensation messages between the brain and body. These messages are responsible for sensation and movement, but they’re also responsible for critical bodily functions that you can’t see, including digestion and breathing. As a result, spinal cord injury can cause issues with sensation, movement, and strength. More specifically, a spinal cord injury at the neck level can cause symptoms such as:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bladder and bowel incontinence
  • “Pins-and-needles” sensation
  • Lack of coordination

Spinal Disc Injuries

Spinal disc injuries account for 2,800 of all car accident-related injuries each year. As with ligaments and tendons, the sudden force of an accident puts intense pressure on the discs located between the spinal vertebrae or spine bones. These discs have a hard outer layer and an inner layer that helps provide cushioning for the spine. As a result, a herniated disc can develop in which some of the soft inner material of the disc protrudes out into the spinal bones.

Since spinal discs are meant to be shock absorbers for the spinal vertebrae, any damage can impact movement and nerve function in the area of injury and throughout the body. A herniated disc can place pressure on a nerve and cause pain and dysfunction. Due to the widespread connectivity of the nerves, this can extend as far as the entire length of the arm.

Vertebral Dislocations

Nerve dysfunction can also result from a dislocated bone in the neck vertebrae. Vertebral dislocations account for 1,500 neck injuries among car accident victims each year. This is another injury related to the extreme force that occurs during a car accident.

When a vertebral bone is dislocated or displaced, it can cause nerve irritation or injury. The displaced bone can press a nerve between a vertebra and a spinal disc, or a nerve may be squeezed in between two vertebrae. Since this injury causes a lot of swelling, the nearby nerves can also become irritated due to the immune system cells that are responding to the injury. Such nerve issues can cause pain throughout the neck, head, and shoulder areas.

Get Help For Your Neck Injury

After a car accident, you might not even realize you’ve been injured. If you have an injury, it can be easy to dismiss it as just a touch of whiplash or some other similar issue.

At Denver Chiropractic, LLC, our team believes that neither of these is the right approach. The neck is such an important and delicate body part. Therefore, it requires targeted care and rehabilitation to help you feel your best. Please email Dr. Artichoker at, give us a call at (303)455-2225 or complete our online appointment request form for more information or to schedule a consultation.