Neck pain after trauma, or with other symptoms, can mean there's a serious medical problem

Neck pain can be an important sign of a serious medical condition, particularly when it’s present in association with other symptoms or trauma. Trauma can include things like a car wreck, sports injury, or any blow to the head.

The neck, of course, carries the spinal cord and nerves from the brain down the back. When anything compromises the spinal cord and the neck area, it can cause problems from the neck down.

If you experience neck pain with any of these symptoms, medical experts recommend getting checked out by a doctor as soon as possible:

• Weakness, numbness or tingling in the extremities (arms or legs)

• Loss of sensation in the groin area (saddle anesthesia)

• New difficulty with ambulation (walking or balance issues)

• Problems with bowel and/or bladder function

Over my many years as a medical malpractice attorney, I’ve encountered numerous cases where emergency providers didn’t properly assess potential neck problems.

Many years ago, I was involved in a case where a teenager crashed into a parked car at a pretty high speed. He was in the passenger seat, not wearing a seatbelt, and was ejected through the front windshield on impact.

Imagine the physical force from that type of collision. The whole body slams into a stationary surface at once. Doctors and nurses call it blunt force trauma.

An ambulance took the young man to a nearby hospital emergency room in the Clear Lake area of Houston. These types of presentations require extensive workup by emergency physicians and nurses because they have to assess and clear every part of the body from head to toe.

Long story short, the emergency room doctor ordered x-rays and CT scans of the patient’s head, brain, and entire back. For some reason, though, he omitted a study of the neck. Sadly, the young man in that case ended up paralyzed just below the shoulders down because a vertebral artery in the neck had dissected as a result of blunt force trauma. It wasn’t detected because it wasn’t considered or tested. The emergency providers were busy assessing other parts of the patient’s body, many of which were less important.

Neck pain can also be related to an infection. Meningitis is a classic infection that can cause neck pain, but a variety of organisms can cause infection and abscess (a walled off accumulation of pus) that leads to spinal cord compression and neurological problems.

Generally, when there is a history of head or neck trauma, or neck pain and other symptoms, the standard of care requires ordering diagnostic radiology imaging, usually a CT scan, to find a cause. Time is of the essence because if there’s a problem causing spinal cord compression, there’s only so much time to surgically decompress it and restore blood flow and oxygenation before there’s a permanent injury, paralysis, or even quadriplegia.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of medical mismanagement of a neck injury or symptoms, then contact a top-rated, skilled Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for help in evaluating your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.