Chronic Neck Pain From Car Accident 6 Years Ago

Hello everyone, first time poster on this forum. I am writing to see if anybody had any similar experiences they could share. I am 33 years old and was in a mild car accident 6 years ago. I was at complete stop and was rear ended at about 25 MPH. No damage to my bumper. I thought I was fine for a day or two, then the pain and stiffness set in my neck. I originally went to emergency room after about a week and, Xrays showed up fine. I went to 2 full cycles of PT (40 visits) and also a full cycle at a chiro. After about a year and a half, the pain and stiffness had reduced by about 75%, but never completely healed. I was told that it should heal in time and to be patient. So I tried to put it behind me for the next 6 years, just dealing with the pain that I do have. But I am sick of dealing with it at this point. It bothers me and affects my life on a daily basis. The remaining pain does not seem to be getting any better, at times I think it is getting worse. I have flareups that are becoming more often.

The symptons I have are manageable but very noticeable on a daily basis, I would rate my pain at about a 3/10 most of the time. Sometimes it flares up and gets worse. When not moving it can feel like it is aching or burning , when I do extend my neck it feels something is strained in a specific spot (about halfway up neck and just to the right of spine). It is stiff all the time. With crackling and popping when moving neck around which is very bothersome. Turning my head basically to the left or right does not bother too much, it is the twisting and extending in different directions that really trigger it.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.





  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 4,299
    edited 07/23/2019 - 1:08 PM
    hello caseym21 !
    Welcome to Veritas Health Forum
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  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 4,299
    Hello Casey....
    I was curious if you have had any recent tests re your spinal pain and other symptoms?
    My primary doctor tried to treat my pain two years before referring me to pain management doctor.

    He did variety of tests, that I did not even hear of at that time....and then had a plan for taking the edge of my pain. For me, the EMG was very revealing.
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  • You need a MRI. Without a MRI, no one knows what is going on in your neck.

    You say your pain in a 3/10. I had at least 20 years of 3/10 neck pain before I began to suffer numbness and tingling in my hand and the pain ratcheted up to a 7 or 8, at which point I finally got a MRI and had surgery. I didn't know it was not normal to go through life with a 3/10 neck pain (thought everyone who had a stressful job had neck pain) or I would have sought out a MRI earlier, albeit in the "old days" MRI's were quite expensive and not easily obtained. While I will never know for sure, I think the genesis of my bad neck were two mild car accidents in my '20's.

    Barring anything drastic on your MRI that shows a need for surgery, here is what got me through 20 years of 3/10 neck pain: yoga, massage (on which I sadly spent a large portion of my disposable income, but that's what I needed to be able to function), acupuncture and mentholated pain patches that you can buy over the counter.

    You are young. Perhaps in the future they will have better solutions.
  • Hi Savage, Thanks for the reply. No recent tests other than a recent Xray that my chiropractor took.

    The pain is in the right side of my neck only. It is very stiff all the time and the pain is always there. When I extend my neck with side to side motions it is very painful. Up and down motions do not bother it. There is a lot of crackling when moving and sometimes loud pops. To me it feels like the muscles or ligaments in there are badly strained and it just does not ever heal. Lately the pain has also been radiating up to the base of my skull and also down to my shoulder blade.

    I recently met with my primary as a first time patient and explained I am experiencing neck pain etc and I wanted an MRI. The Dr. said it would be better for a specialist to order the MRI and referred me to a Orthopedic surgeon. So right now I am in the process of getting an MRI.

  • L.A.Spiney, Thank you very much for the response. Reading your post feels like a look into the future for me. My pain after 6 or 7 years is only becoming worse rather than better. My accident also happened in my 20s and I thought I could deal with the pain or was hoping it would go away. I was wrong.

    I am curious what an MRI revealed in your case? Was it disc problems? or joint or ligament damage? Would love to hear a little more about. Thanks.


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  • I am curious what an MRI revealed in your case? Was it disc problems? or joint or ligament damage?
    First, it is not uncommon for pain in the neck to be unilateral. That's true of many people and may be explained by your imaging, when you finally get a MRI.

    My MRI revealed that my cervical spine was severely compromised at every level, although who knows how much of that was present from when I first began experiencing neck problems and how much was just degenerative changes over the years. Almost everyone's cervical spine degenerates as they age, although in most cases not as severely as mine. I have a good friend who is a radiologist and at one point he put my MRI up on the screen next to a MRI of someone 15 years older than me and, sadly, her cervical spine looked a whole lot better than mine.

    Basically, your MRI should show whether you have a disc herniations that are compromising your central spinal canal, and if you have any, the herniation should be graded as mild, moderate or severe. When it's severe, it's time to speak to a surgeon.

    The other thing that your MRI will show is whether you have something called neuroforaminal stenosis. This is different from a disc hernation and neuroforaminal stenosis affects your foramen, rather than your central canal. Basically, the foramen narrows and the nerve doesn't have enough room and this causes neck pain. Again, this will be graded as mild, moderate and severe and again when it is graded severe is the time to speak to a surgeon.

    My MRI revealed both herniations and severe neuroforaminal stenosis, more severe on the left, which explained why I had unilateral left sided pain.

    If your MRI reveals a lot of bone spurring, a CT may be indicated because a CT reveals a lot more about the extent of bone spurring than does a MRI. My MRI revealed a lot of spurring and my neurosurgeon insisted on a CT before surgery. If your MRI doesn't reveal significant spurring, you can skip the radiation of a CT.

    If your MRI reveals a problem, they may want an EMG, which is a test to see if there is permanent damage to the nerve and, at what level(s). I had an EMG before surgery. Thankfully, no permanent damage to the nerve was revealed, which may explain why I had a better surgical result than a lot of other people.

    My problem was so severe at C6-C7 that there was no question that I needed surgery, but if your MRI doesn't reveal something that severe that screams "let's have surgery now" and if your MRI reveals multi-level problems, one thing they may try are "selective nerve root blocks." A selective nerve root block tries to determine which level is the pain generator. However, if your cervical spine looks beautiful except for a single level, then they probably already know the pain generator level and many people try a cortisone injection at that level to try to relieve the pain, at least for a couple of years. I have personally never heard of those working for anyone, but I am sure there are some success stories out there with injections.

    As to an orthopedic surgeon, make sure you see one whose practice is exclusively devoted to spine. Many people also see neurosurgeons, but again you want one whose practice is exclusively devoted to spine.
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