Chronic Neck Pain After Auto Injury

25% Develop Chronic Neck Pain After Auto Injury

Studies have shown that up to 25% of victims develop chronic neck pain after an auto injury. As with most chronic pain, the source can be elusive. However, further research in the past few years points to one particular structure in the neck, called facet joints, that can be the source of chronic pain.

Most vertebra (spinal bones) are connected to each other by a disc in front and two small facet facet jointsjoints in the back (see picture to right). These two joints are designed to glide smoothly together and control the normal motion of the neck, especially rotation.

Postmortem studies (after death), animal research and biomechanical studies on volunteers have demonstrated chronic pain after auto injury results from facet joint damage. These joint surfaces are lined with a thin layer of cartilage which can suffer microscopic tears or fracture during an auto injury. The challenge is that this type of injury is not visible on standard x-rays or MRI’s.

Studies on volunteers have shown the events that happen in the neck during an auto collision. Initially, there is a strain and compression of the capsule and ligaments around the facet joints. This then causes a sprain of the capsular ligament and the resulting compression forces fracture or tear the cartilage lining the facet joint. The damaged ligaments and capsules around the facet joint contain many pain fibers and when stretched and injured they become irritated and inflamed resulting in the initial pain of the injury.

The chronic neck pain of an auto injury develops when the damaged tissue repairs itself with scar tissue. This scar tissue has less blood supply than normal tissue, is less elastic than normal tissue and has more nerve endings than normal tissue. The result is a stiff, sensitive facet joint that is continually aggravated with random neck motions.

Further, because the cartilage lining the facet joint has less blood supply, when it is cracked during the trauma, it does not regenerate well. This then affects the normal gliding motion of the joint which will also aggravate the damage tissue and cause pain.

The best way to prevent chronic neck pain after auto injury is to get the right care immediately. The focus is to restore and maintain normal joint alignment and flexibility while the injured structure heals. Chiropractic care has shown to be one of the most effective with regards to facet joints and their healing.

As a 1984 graduate of Life Chiropractic College, Dr. Martin Schmaltz has years of helping those who have been injured in auto accidents. He has extensive training and study in how the injury happens as well as the specific treatments and documentation to help his patients. He has a great working relationship with many attorneys in the St Louis area and is know for his detailed notes and diagnosis of the injured patient.