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What is a Cervical Strain or Sprain?

Baltimore personal injury lawyers handling motor vehicle and car accident cases deal with these types of injuries on a daily basis. A ligament is a sinew that attaches bone to bone. [e.g. the "ACL" / anterior cruciate ligament in the knee]. A tendon is a sinew that connects bone to muscle [e.g. the "Achilles tendon" in the leg].

When the forces involved in an automobile accident cause the ligaments in the neck and back to tear, doctors call this injury a sprain. When the forces involved in an automobile accident cause the tendons or muscles in the neck and back to fray or partially tear, doctors call this injury a strain.

If the damage is severe enough, it's referred to as a full thickness tear. Sprains and strains are rated by severity from Grade 1 to Grade 3 [complete tear]. Injuries to the neck [cervical] or the back [lumbar] in car accident cases are sometimes referred to collectively as strain/sprain. Lawyers practicing in the 70s, 80s and 90s would commonly see strain/sprain injuries to the neck referred to as "whiplash"- although use of this term is decreasing. In a bygone era one heard this condition was referred to as "railroad spine". In current parlance, cervical and lumbar strains and sprains are referred to as "soft tissue injuries". Although commonly used by medical professionals, the insurance industry often uses this phrase "soft tissue"as a pejorative. 

"They can't be hurt, these injuries are all just soft tissue" 

Anyone who's ever sustained a cervical strain in a car accident would justifiably be insulted by that statement.

Common complaints of motor vehicle accident victims with these injuries are pain, pain on movement, loss of range of motion, stiffness, tightness and the like. If pain radiates into the extremities, it may be evidence of a more serious condition. Physical therapy, anti-inflammatory and pain medications and chiropractic care are the common modalities of treatment. Most of these types of injuries resolve within three months. A common insurance practice is to minimize the injury causing event from the inception of the process. Their representative will attempt to control the dialogue and diminish, even subtly, the nature of car accident, and the nature and extent of the injury. The repeated references to "just soft tissue" is an example of the practice. 

     -This Article was updated by Eric Kirk on 6/27/19. 

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