Neck Injury

Patients periodically arrive in the ER after fender benders concerned they’ve broken their necks. Or sometimes 24-48 hours later they appear after someone not paying the bill says “you really gotta get that checked.” It’s easy to order X-rays. Much harder to say “fear not, and have a nice day.”  So more important are the happy words.

Red Flags:

• Weakness/numbness of arms/legs
• A sense of “being stuck” (Joints in the neck can also dislocate.)
• Frail/arthritic
• High speed accident
• Other major injuries

Happy Words

• No midline neck pain – meaning the bones don’t hurt when we push on them directly. (Sore muscles on the sides aren’t particularly concerning.)
• No intoxication or confusion that could mask injury
• No neurological problems like weak or tingling fingers
• Low speed accident
• No other concerning injury that may distract attention 
“I felt fine after the accident, but when I woke up today it was super tight.”
• “I tried to work out after, but when I did curls it went right up my neck.”
• “My boss sent me here to get checked and for a work note.”
• “Yeah the car isn’t damaged and drives fine. I just hit the breaks too hard.” (I kid you not.)

After any hard workout, muscular discomfort often peaks the next morning, and the same applies for whiplash. And as with all injuries, there are two general types; those which will heal no matter what we do, and those that could use some assistance beyond rest, ibuprofen, gentle massage, gentle stretching. Even for fractures, there are stable fractures such as spinous process fractures for which ibuprofen, rest and PT may suffice, and crush fractures or dislocations (Christopher Reeves) which may lead to permanent disability.

In general, if you’re still walking, talking, breathing, peeing, pooping, driving, after 24-48 hours your chances are excellent. But if you want a neck X-ray we’re happy to order one for you as well. $60 at Selma Carlson is downright reasonable.

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