Herniated Disc in the Neck Caused by Whiplash Injury

November 19, 2012

Adverse weather conditions (eg, snow and rain) can significantly increase motor vehicle crashes by reducing tire adherence and impairing visibility. According to the US National Research Council, in the United States alone, poor weather-related driving conditions are associated with more than 7000 fatalities, 800,000 injuries, and more than 1.5 million vehicle crashes each year. And the estimated annual economic costs caused by weather-related crashes are about $42 billion.

Motor vehicle crashes can cause various injuries. And a whiplash injury is one of the most common vehicle collision-induced injuries. As the name indicates, whiplash is caused by an abrupt motion distorting the neck. A whiplash injury can affect the neck, as well as the back and head.

Besides damaging the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, and ligaments) that hold the neck, it can also damage the cervical spine (the neck region of the spine), causing a herniated disc in the neck . The herniation can compress the nearby nerves, causing pain in the neck, shoulders, and arms. Other symptoms of a herniated disc in the neck may include numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness.

Although mild pain caused by whiplash injury can heal on its own, severe or persistent pain caused by a herniated disc will require medical treatment. A treatment program for a herniated disc in the neck may include rest, anti-inflammatory pain medication, and physical therapy. With these conservative treatments, the symptoms generally improve over time. But if symptoms persist despite the treatment, or if imaging tests find out that the damaged disc is compressing nearby nerves and/or the spinal cord, neck surgery may be considered.

Research has shown that snowfalls can significantly increase car crash-induced fatality rates and non-fatal injuries. And as we can imagine, the first snow is especially dangerous because people are not prepared for driving in the adverse condition yet.

As winter is coming, so are snowfalls--at least in parts of the country. While we cannot always prevent accidents on the road, we can take some precautions to lower the chance. If you need to drive on snowy days, drive slower than on dry days, and keep adequate distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. By preventing whiplash injury caused by car crashes, you can lower your chance of having a pain in the neck.