9 Common Neck Injuries From Slip And Fall Accidents

In today’s society, we tend to walk very little. Instead, we use motorcycles, cars, elevators or escalators. As a result, the number of steps we take each day has been significantly reduced. The average number of steps is 5,000 but doctors recommend that this should be 10,000. Yet, even with so few physical steps being taken, slips and falls happen. Furthermore, some physicians now suggest that because we walk so little, injuries as a result of a slip and fall are more likely to be serious.

Many slip and fall accidents are due to negligence of the owner of the land on which the accident occurred. If this negligence causes an injury, it is very important to seek not just medical advice, but also legal advice in the matter. This is true even if it is simply to stop someone else from becoming injured in the same way.

Neck Injuries

Neck injuries, also referred to as cervical spine injuries, come in different types. Furthermore, they can range from mild to severe. Before looking at the types of neck injuries that can be caused by slips and falls, however, it is very important to remember that, in most cases, an injury to the neck means other parts of the body are injured as well. For instance, someone with whiplash is also likely to have ligament sprain, muscle strain and/or injury to the disc. This is due to the fact that the neck is connected to many other parts of the body. The head is held up by all the different tissues in that area, being joints, bones, nerves and soft tissue.

Two Types of Neck Injuries

In the vast majority of cases, a neck injury only involves soft tissue. Additionally, even neck injuries that are predominantly on other parts of the neck will also include soft tissue, whether they are mild or severe. This is because the ligaments, tendons and/or muscles will almost always be affected as well.

In other cases, however, the neck injury may affect the spinal cord and/or the nerves. When this happens, damage to the nervous system has occurred as the roots of the nerves that affect the spinal cord are irritated. In other cases, a nerve may be stretched or pinched. Usually, these neck conditions are more difficult to diagnose, as well as being harder to cope with and to treat. One of the reasons for this is that it is incredibly complicated to diagnose nerve pain. In some cases, these injuries result in life long disabilities or paralysis and, at times, death.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common neck injuries from slip and fall accidents, which can be either soft tissue (1 through 3), or involving the nervous system (4 through 9).

  1. Crick in the neck. Many people use the term “kink” or “crick” to describe the pain they feel when they wake up after a night of sleeping in an awkward position. However, the same can happen following a sudden movement of the neck, which can be caused by a slip or fall. The term “crick” or “kink” is not a medical diagnosis. Rather, it refers to trigger points, a muscle spasm, a disc problem or arthritis. In most cases, some at home care is all that is needed to resolve this type of issue. However, if it lasts for more than a week, or if it is debilitating, people should seek medical care.
  2. Muscle strain. This happens when the muscles responsible for moving the spine are injured. In the majority of cases, the strain is in the lower back, but this can also affect the neck. When these muscles are strained, movement can become difficult, leading to pain and reduced flexibility. In most cases, doctors will recommend over-the-counter pain medication and changing the way people move for a while. However, if the strain remains debilitating after one week, further medical opinions should be sought.
  3. Neck sprain. This happens when the ligaments (the strong strips of connective tissue that help keep bones together) are injured. This is one of the most common neck injuries after a fall. Essentially, the sudden movement overstretches or overloads the joint. Symptoms include pain, reduced flexibility and swelling. Sprains range from mild to severe. Those who have, or who are suspected to have, a severe neck sprain should immediately be immobilized and emergency medical assistance should be sought. With moderate or minor sprains, ice and rest are generally sufficient, as well as over-the-counter medication.
  4. Whiplash Associated Disorders (WAD). Whiplash is a commonly used term that describes a condition caused by a sudden movement of the head. The head is first hyperextended and is then snapped backwards very quickly. While most people involved in car accidents will suffer from whiplash, it can also happen as a result of a fall. WAD, contrary to popular belief, is not a medical diagnosis. Rather, it describes an event that has led to an injury, such as a neck sprain or strain. Furthermore, it can cause damage to discs or joints and this, in turn, can irritate the roots of the nerves or potentially even the spinal cord. Depending on what the actual injury is, symptoms of WAD can include numbness, weakness or tingling down the arm, generalized pain, dizziness, stiffness or disturbed sleep. Often, these symptoms do not appear until a day or two after the injury. Scientists are looking into treatment methods for WAD with current treatment involving wearing a collar and taking pain medication.
  5. Herniated disc. This happens when the nucleus pulposis, the soft substance found inside the discs, is pushed outwards. If the substance touches the root of a nerve, which is very common, people start to experience pain as well as pins and needles, numbness and weakness. With a herniated disc in the neck, this is generally felt down the arm. Herniation can also be caused by a tear in the outer fiber of the neck. This can happen when the joint is suddenly and forcefully placed under stress or twisted. If someone twists during a fall, for instance, this could happen. Usually, treatment involves physical therapy and strong painkillers, but it may require surgery as well.
  6. Stingers and burners. This injury is called this way because it feels like stings and burns. It is a temporary injury that affects the brachial plexus, which is the nerve root. It is a common injury for people who fall backwards or who land sideways. They are often caused when the head abruptly tilts, or when the shoulder and the head move in opposite directions simultaneously. Symptoms include stinging, burning, weakness, numbness and an electrical sensation in one arm. Additionally, many say it feels very warm. If this feeling lasts for more than just a few minutes, medical assistance should be sought. If not treated, it could result in a more catastrophic neck injury if any other impact occurs at a later stage.
  7. Neck fracture. A neck fracture occurs when the cervical bone is broken. This can be caused by severe falls. Usually, the severity and type of break is dependent on the angle of force that happened during the impact. Certain people, such as the elderly or those who have osteoporosis, are at increased risk of suffering from a neck fracture as a result of a fall. This is because their bones are more brittle. Dislocation often accompanies the most severe neck fractures. Treatment varies depending on preexisting medical conditions, age and how badly the spine has been damaged. If the neck is destabilized, a halo brace may be required.
  8. Cervical dislocation. This happens when a bone in the neck moves completely out of its natural position, leading to instability in the spine. A fall can cause disruption to the ligaments that hold the different vertebrae in place, which causes them to separate from the bone underneath. In the case of a fall, a dislocation is almost always accompanied by a neck fracture as well. The most severe dislocation is when “jumping” has occurred, which means the bone is completely displaced in a forward position and then locks there. In this case, the ligaments are completely ruptured as well. Almost all dislocations cause damage to the spinal cord, which often has to be treated through surgery. However, if the bone does not move fully outwards, the injury is less severe. This can also happen when the displacement is only on one side. These dislocations can return to normal position naturally, although victims will usually have to wear a collar for some time.
  9. 9. Spinal cord injury (SCI). This happens when an injury to the neck, such as a dislocation or fracture, damages the spinal cord. If this happens at the 3rd or higher cervical vertebra, the condition is often fatal. Those who survive will generally require a permanent respirator. Those who have suffered an SCI are usually disabled for life, often with full or partial paralysis below their injury. In these cases, the speed at which emergency treatment can be given is usually critical not just to survival, but also to the subsequent quality of life.