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What is Cervical Strain That is Caused By an Accident?

Cervical strain is a common injury routinely seen in the ER. Although it’s usually associated with car accidents, any impact or blow that causes your head to jerk forward or backward can cause neck strain. Neck strains are caused by damage to the muscle or the tendons, bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Cervical strain involves the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar portion of the spine.

In an auto accident, there are powerful forces that could cause someone to change direction quickly. Even though individuals might be wearing their seatbelts, there is no restraint for the head. This causes the neck to snap back and forth quickly. This can stretch the tendons in and around the cervical spine, leading to a wrenched neck.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Cervical Strain?
  • Pain and stiffness
  • Limited movement
  • Headache
  • Swelling or bruising
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Dizziness or vertigo
How is a Cervical Strain Diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will check your movement, balance, and strength. An x-ray, CT, or MRI may show the injury. A pronouncement of cervical strain means that diagnostic radiographs (CT, X-ray) are negative for fracture or dislocation

Radiographs in addition to bedside examination will guide a clinician as to strain versus indication to investigate for more emergent condition(s). MRI, CT Scan and Myleogram are only way to visualize the soft tissue components of the spine (muscles, nerves, intervertebral discs, ligaments) > generally performed in the ambulatory setting (upon follow-up with a specialist) if the strain is not resolving as expected.  MRI and Mylegoram will allow for visualization of herniated intervertebral discs, displaced or torn ligaments, injured or torn discs, as well as nerve root impingement.

Generally classified as a “soft tissue injury”, cervical strain  may require further workup in the ambulatory (non-ER) setting.

Red Flags – When to Seek Additional Immediate Care

Red flags which may indicate something MORE than a strain include:
– Numbness
– Tingling
– Motor weakness of any extremities
– Changes with bowel or bladder pattern and even incontinence
associated chest/back or abdominal pain

How Long Can the Pain of Cervical Strain After a Car Accident Last?

Neck pain from cervical strain / whiplash typically lasts several weeks. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, most people recover fully from whiplash within three months. In addition to general neck pain and stiffness, you may also experience these symptoms with a whiplash injury.

Treatment Methods
  • Modalities to decrease pain and inflammation
  • Postural exercises
  • ROM exercises
  • Stretching exercises,
  • Use manual techniques such as joint mobilization, soft tissue mobilization, and cervical manual traction
  • Strengthening exercises such as cervical stabilization exercises
  • Mechanical traction may also be useful,
  • Light Aerobic conditioning exercise, such as walking
Complications of a Sprain of the Cervical Spine

Even though many people who suffer a sprain of the cervical spine will make a full recovery, others might develop serious complications. When someone develops complications of an injury, such as a cervical lumbar strain, following an auto accident, it is important to ask for help.

Watch our full Youtube Channel video series and learn more from the experts!


Joe Zarzaur, a board certified civil trial lawyer and founder of Zarzaur Law, P.A., a Pensacola Personal Injury law firm, has created this video blog in an effort to educate the many citizens and visitors of Pensacola and Destin, Florida about their legal rights.

Joe Zarzaur knows the ins and outs of Florida law, and offers friendly-quality legal help whether you have experienced an auto accident/car wreck, have been a victim of medical malpractice or are in need of a personal injury lawyer. Offices in Pensacola and Destin. Board certified in Florida and Alabama.

For more information, visit:

11 E Romana Street
Pensacola, FL 32502

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