Although you may experience neck strain immediately after a car accident, it could take several hours to a few days before the inflammation increases, and symptoms appear. But as more time passes, the more difficult it can be to prove the injury was the result of the crash.
According to the Colorado Spine Institute, the cervical spine consists of an intricate system of more than 20 muscles, tendons and ligaments held by seven small vertebrae. This is the most mobile spine segment, which makes it the most susceptible to injuries.
If you were in a car crash, you might experience sharp pain or stiffness in your neck. This could be the result of torn or stretched soft tissue. Other symptoms of cervical strain include the following:
- Headache starting at the base of your neck
- Muscle spasms and swelling
- Difficulty concentrating
- Numbness, tingling or weakness in a hand or arm
- Dizziness or vertigo
Although painful, treatment for this type of injury does not require surgery, even in severe cases.
Over-the-counter medicine such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help with pain and swelling. However, depending on the strain, a doctor may prescribe muscle relaxers or other pain medication. Additionally, your doctor may recommend neck exercises and physical therapy to help you get back to normal.
Severe muscle sprains can take several weeks to heal. During that time, you may be unable to work, and your insurance may not cover medical expenses as cervical strain and whiplash do not qualify as serious injuries. If a negligent driver caused your car accident, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim.