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Last Modified: November 19, 2021

Types of Neck Injuries

woman massaging her neck due to a neck injury

The neck (cervical spine) is composed of vertebrae that begin in the upper torso and end at the base of the skull. The bony vertebrae along with the ligaments (which are comparable to thick rubber bands) provide stability to the spine. The muscles allow for support and motion. The neck has a significant amount of motion and supports the weight of the head. Neck injuries are caused by trauma sustained during vehicular accidents. The neck can also be injured by gradual strains such as sudden movements or overuse and by direct blows to the head/ shoulder region by a hard object and during falls. For many people, neck pain is a temporary condition that disappears with time. Others need medical diagnosis and treatment to relieve their symptoms. Many patients seek orthopedic care for neck pain because orthopedists are specifically trained to diagnose, treat, and help prevent problems involving the muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons. Although some orthopedists confine their practices to specific areas of the musculoskeletal system, most treat a wide variety of diseases, injuries, and other conditions, including neck pain. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) categorizes neck injuries into four: broken neck, slipped disk in neck, stiff neck and whiplash.

Broken Neck Injury

Broken neck injury is considered a very rare sports injury but usually happens in rugby, trampolining and cheerleading. All neck pain after a trauma is considered as broken neck that calls for immediate treatment by medical specialists. Broken neck is manifested by pain after a trauma, loss of sensation or inability to move the limbs and serious breathing difficulty.

Slipped Disc in Neck

Slipped disk injury is also called disc prolapse and usually treated by immobilizing the neck using a soft collar. This injury is considered the most common cause of neck pain. Symptoms associated with this type of injury include: severe neck pain, pain in the neck, shoulder and arm and weakness or loss of sensation in the arms or hands. A person suffering from this injury should immediately consult a medical expert. The use of a neck collar and supportive neck pillow are used to promote correct neck alignment. Heat packs and massage can help in relieving muscle spasm and pain.

Stiff Neck

Acute torticollis, or wry neck are medical terms used to describe a sudden stiff neck. This injury is commonly experienced after a night’s rest wherein the person had poorly positioned the neck or had used the wrong pillow. AAOS recommends a neck pain pillow and soothing warm packs if there is no serious underlying problem. It is best to consult an Orthopedist if the pain does not go away.


Whiplash is often due to the trauma of a car accident, although it may occur as a sports injury in some people. Many people with whiplash claim that they have no neck pain immediately after the traumatic incident, but neck pain and neck stiffness develop around 24 hours after the accident due to ligament damage, joint inflammation and muscle strains in the neck. Whiplash is a term that describes injury to the neck that occurs as a result of a motor vehicle or car accident. The most common type of car accident is the rear impact, and most typically, the occupant in the vehicle that gets “rear-ended” (hit from behind). A “rear end” automobile collision may result in hyperextension, a backward motion of the neck beyond normal limits, or hyperflexion, a forward motion of the neck beyond normal limits. The most common neck injuries involve the soft tissues – the muscles and ligaments. Severe neck injuries with a fracture or dislocation of the neck may damage the spinal cord and cause paralysis. For all types of neck injury, medical attention is needed when the neck pain is continuous and persistent, severe, accompanied by pain that radiates down the arms or legs and accompanied by headaches, numbness, tingling, or weakness.

Contact Us

If you have suffered a severe neck injury at the hand of someone else, please do not hesitate to contact us at Christensen & Hymas by calling (801)506-0800.

Photo “sore neck?” copyright by Aidan Jones.

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