2007-08-01 00:00:00

Muscle Pain Following Whiplash Injuries.

One of the most common symptoms experienced after a motor vehicle accident, is head and neck pain especially when the occupant is struck from behind. Neck injuries associated with auto accidents have been studied for many years, recently a new study published in the prestigious medical journal Spine, was released that helped to explain the cause of this pain.

The impact experienced by an occupant in an auto accident produces a large amount of force over a very short period of time, lasting only milliseconds. A new research study explains that it is may be the short time frame that may play a larger role in neck injuries than once thought. When an occupant is struck from behind, the force travels from the back of the car through the occupant finally exiting through the front. In order to protect the body, the body muscles of the neck contract to prevent injury. The muscles have been shown to fire at 100 milliseconds post impact which is 25 milliseconds after the majority of damage has occurred to the ligaments in the neck. (1)
The conclusion of the study: The muscles of the neck fire to late in a rear end collision to prevent injury to the spine and ligaments.
Ligaments heal very slowly because they lack the blood supply that muscles have. Ligaments in the neck also do not get the rest needed due to the demands on the neck at we go about our daily activities. The muscles of the neck are required to support a greater portion of the weight of the head and therefore become tired and sore while supporting this weight.
When structures of the neck are injured, the once healthy tissue is replaced with scar tissue. This new tissue is not nearly as strong or flexible as its predecessor. Encouraging proper healing of these tissues requires maintaining the mobility through spinal manipulation and stretching. Once the injured areas become less painful, it is imperative to strengthen the supporting muscles that have been injured. These muscles will be responsible for supporting the neck and preventing exacerbations or flare ups.
Injuries in the neck can also produce symptoms of pain in areas other than the location of the injury, this is called referred pain. For example and injury that occurs in the neck from a motor vehicle collision can present at pain in the shoulder blade. Referral pain patterns have been mapped out in the neck by injecting a stimulus to a specific area in the spine with a stimulating agent and the patient is asked to identify any symptoms they are experiencing outside of the location of the injection.
1. Vasavada AN, Brault JR, Siegmund GP. Musculotendon and fascicle strains in anterior and posterior neck muscles during whiplash injury. Spine 2007;32(7):756-765.

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