Trauma is the most common cause of neck injuries. The neck forms the main support for your skull. The neck can be injured by sudden movements and by direct blows to the head and shoulder region.
The most common cause of neck injuries in a motor vehicle collision is rapid acceleration and deceleration of the head as a vehicle stops suddenly, accelerates suddenly, or changes direction suddenly. The body is restrained to the seat by the seatbelt or pushed by the seatback, and since the seat is bolted to the vehicle, the body moves in tandem with the vehicle. The head, though, continues on in the initial direction of travel until stopped by the restrained body, and then snaps back in the opposite direction – a whiplash. Headrests can lessen this effect in a front or rear impact, but have little effect in a side collision. The violent back and forth movement takes only milliseconds to occur and is often not perceived by the person struck. This movement, however, can cause stretching, straining, and microscopic tearing of the muscle fibers, tendons and ligaments that are located in the neck. This can lead to swelling and inflammation, spasm, reduced mobility, loss of strength in the neck, arms, hands and fingers, numbness, tingling, burning in the neck, arms, hands and fingers, and pain. Medically, these injuries are called “soft tissue injury”, “whiplash”, or “connective tissue sprain or strain.”