Peripheral nerve injury is very common in car accidents. The severity of injuries can vary from only a mild stretch to complete disruption of the nerve.
If you have been involved in an auto accident that has caused nerve pain, numbness, or nerve damage, a personal injury attorney can help you understand the accident law that applies to your case. They will help you process your claims and document your injuries, whether the symptoms appear immediately, days, or even weeks later.
There are hundreds of nerves in the human body and every one of them has a specific function. Generally speaking, nerves can be divided into three main groups: motor, sensory, and mixed nerves. Motor nerves send signals to the muscles to contract and move different body parts. Sensory nerves only gather information from our surroundings (pressure, temperature, pain, etc.) and send them to the brain for processing. Mixed nerves have a combination of motor and sensory functions. (1)
There are 31 pairs of mixed nerves that emerge from the spine. (2) This means that they will gather sensory information that affects the body, but they will also activate muscles and move body parts. They can be divided based on their location: cervical nerves, thoracic nerves, lumbar nerves, sacral nerves, and coccygeal nerves. Every one of the spinal nerves has a very specific function. Hands receive and send information via three main nerves: median nerve, ulnar nerve, and radial nerve. Their roots are located in the cervical spine (neck) and from there they go together through the armpit. From the armpit, they divide and go separately down to the elbows, forearms, hands, and fingers. On their way, they send small branches to different muscles and skin. When they reach the fingers, each of these three nerves provides sensory information to specific fingers.
The radial nerve provides sensation to the volar side of the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger. It also provides sensitivity to the dorsal side of the index finger, middle finger, and ring finger around their nails. The ulnar nerve provides sensation to the palmar side of the little finger and half of the ring finger next to the pinky. It also provides sensitivity to the dorsal side of the little finger and half of the ring finger up to the nail bed. The median nerve provides sensation to part of the volar side of the base of the thumb and dorsal side of the whole thumb, and index finger, middle finger, and half of ring finger up to their nail beds. (3)
Nerves can be injured in several ways, but there are three main types of nerve injury. They can be mildly stretched, which will cause transitory symptoms. Nerves can also be partially or completely severed. In those cases, symptoms can be long-lasting or even permanent. (4)
Symptoms of peripheral nerve injury depend mostly on the type of nerve affected. When a motor nerve is injured, there will be loss of muscle strength, cramps, or in some cases, uncontrollable muscle movements. If the nerve provides signals to a small muscle, symptoms can be mild. However, if the nerve is big and provides signals to a major muscle or muscle group, the symptoms can be devastating.
More common are injuries of sensory nerves or the sensory part of mixed nerves. These injuries will cause problems in sensation. The most common symptoms include numbness of a certain body part, tingling, decreased sensation over a certain body area, changes in sensing pain, pressure, balance, etc. (5)
Some of the most common causes of peripheral nerve injuries include car accidents, falls, sports injuries, crush injuries, and cuts. After car accidents in particular, other less common causes of numbness and/or tingling in the fingers can be compression of the median nerve in carpal tunnel or compression of the ulnar nerve in the elbow or wrist. (6)
These symptoms can greatly affect your quality of life. Both timely contact with medical professionals and an auto accidents lawyer focuses on personal injury law can reduce your physical and financial burden.
It can be complicated to navigate the legal and medical systems on your own — but you don’t have to.
A personal injury attorney who has an emphasis on accident law can guide you through the process of getting the compensation you deserve after a traumatic car accident.
Numbness and/or tingling in the hands and fingers are very common symptoms after car accidents. This is usually caused by a cervical spine (neck) injury. Less commonly, there is a direct injury to one or more peripheral nerves in the arm, hand, or finger.
Some injuries and symptoms are more dangerous than others, and you should ask for immediate medical attention.
The severity of the symptoms will depend on the type of injury. Most patients will complain of neck pain and/or stiffness and numbness and/or tingling in certain areas. Some will have these sensations in the area between shoulder blades, shoulders, or arms. But most patients will experience numbness and/or tingling sensations in their hands and fingers. If these symptoms last only for a short period of time, it is most likely that they were caused by mild stretching of nerves or their nerve roots in the cervical spine. However, if the symptoms started right after the car accident, if they are very strong, if they last for a long period of time, or if they become worse as time goes on, then they should be more thoroughly examined. (7)
After the injury, your doctor will take a detailed history and complete a thorough examination. If the examiner knows the hand innervation, they will know which nerve is likely injured and where to expect the damage. For example, if the patient complains of thumb numbness or tingling, it is most likely that they have an injury to the radial nerve or its nerve roots. In order to confirm nerve injury, there are several diagnostic tools. Nerve conduction study and electromyography can detect nerve and muscle injury. They can show the level of injury, severity, duration, etc. If these studies are normal and the patient complains of numbness and tingling, then an MRI of the cervical spine can be performed. An MRI will show the cervical spine in great detail, which will allow the examiner to detect issues such as a herniated disc that pushes nerve root or other types of spine injuries. (7)
Not only is seeking medical attention vital for your own health and treatment, but also for providing evidence and documentation for your auto accident lawyer.
A attorney for personal injury can advise you on your rights within the Commonwealth of Virginia and help you get the compensation you deserve.
Treatment options depend mostly on the severity of symptoms. Most injuries require only conservative treatment. Rest, pain killers, and physical therapy usually provide relief. Minor injuries will resolve after a short period of time. More severe injuries will require a longer period of rehabilitation and treatment. Severe nerve injuries can have permanent consequences. Surgery can be an option for injuries such as a herniated disc or a completely severed nerve. (7)
In conclusion, numbness and tingling in fingers can be a sign of a serious injury. If you have any of these symptoms you should visit your doctor and get an examination.
Just as you shouldn’t delay in seeking medical help, you shouldn’t wait to contact an auto accident law firm about your case. Doing so may mean the difference between getting your life back on track after a personal injury or trying to deal with mounting medical bills, missed work, and no financial compensation after your accident.