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Treating a Stiff or Injured Neck as a Result of a Car Accident

NOTE: If you've been injured in an auto accident or collision, you're in the right place! Amongst numerous certifications, Dr. Ted Harrison at North Suburban Healthcare is currently one of only a handful of doctors in the United States who is a Board Certified Chiropractic Orthopedist. He has also received his Certification of Completion from the Spine Research Institute of San Diego (SRISD) in automobile crash and reconstruction with forensics and risk analysis.

Dr. Harrison’s philosophy in and out of the office is: “I do everything I can for the patient.”

Often times stiff necks can be treated with at-home remedies or soothing methods, such as heat, ice, pain relievers, and baths. However, it is imperative that a stiff neck resulting from a car accident or collision is examined by a medical professional. This is primarily because neck stiffness and/or pain that is a direct result of a high-energy impact (i.e. collision) frequently brings a serious underlying injury or condition, such as a concussion or joint damage, misplacement. Your chiropractor will be able to fully examine and evaluate the condition of your body, and then treat you as needed to ensure full clearance and a clean bill of health. This is something that is easy to miss if you're in an accident and "feel fine" or you're "just a little sore" because the naked eye is unlikely to see injuries or inflammation.

Not only is it important to see your chiropractor after you've been in a car accident, but it is just as critical to be aware of the current health and strength of your neck. Numerous factors can determine the type of neck injuries sustained after a collision, including the neck’s stability and strength before the accident occurred, as well as the speed and angle of the impact. For instance, if an individual's spinal joints, collarbone, or neck muscles are weak or more deteriorated than average, they are more susceptible to neck pain or injury if in a collision.

As mentioned previously, while there are various causes at the root of a stiff neck, such as a ligament or muscle strain, there is also risk for an acute injury that may impact the rest of your life if not treated properly. In no particular order, here are three common injuries and ailments seen in NSHC's clinic as results of a car accident:

Cervical spine fracture

There are seven bones that make up the cervical spine in the neck, all of which are stacked on top of one another to support the skull and shield the spinal cord. It's possible for a vertebrae to crack or fracture from the impact of an auto collision, yet remain unnoticed until more pronounced symptoms later begin to surface. These may include stiffness, pain, and even radiating pain down the arms or legs, depending which disc is impacted. In addition, if a cervical spine fracture goes undiagnosed, there is probability of paralysis of one or more limbs, or other complications and injuries.


Proceeding damage or injury to the cervical spine in an accident is trauma that is experienced in the brain, also referred to as a concussion. Here are some signs and symptoms that may indicate you've sustained a concussion and should consult with a medical professional immediately: dizziness, headache, sensitivity to light, confusion, or even other changes to one's mental state, such as being oddly fatigued or easily agitated.

Herniated disc

Herniated discs occur when the soft center of a spinal disc pushes through a fissure in the tougher exterior casing of the spine. If the disc is pressing against a nerve, it can cause restriction of movement, numbness, and acute pain, which can extend out to wherever the nerves go. It only takes the impact of ONE car accident to cause this injury, and, although some people who've sustained a herniated disc do not experience obvious symptoms of one, it can require surgery and physical therapy if left untreated.


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