Whiplash & Chronic Pain

whiplash neck injuryHow Whiplash Causes Chronic Pain.

Most who have suffered a whiplash-type injury recover. However, there is a significant percentage, up to 50% some studies say, who develop chronic pain and even disability from their injury. Sadly, many are accused of exaggerating or even faking! The truth is, whiplash injury can result in chronic pain, especially for those who do not seek proper treatment.

The most common example of a whiplash type injury is when someone is in a vehicle that is struck from behind. The force of the impact travels through the car to the weakest place, the human neck. As the force travels through the car, it typically forces the upper body and shoulders forward under the individual’s head, causing a sheering affect in these spinal joints of the neck. This action happens in 1/10th of a second, or faster than blinking your eyes! Then the head reflexively whips forward and then back, hence the term whiplash. This forceful event can cause a stretching or damage to the soft tissue structures of the neck which include the spinal discs, the capsule around the facet joints (small joints in the back of the neck) and any other ligaments that hold the spinal bones (vertebra) together.

When these soft tissue structures (ligaments, discs, capsules) are stretched, it causes a microscopic tearing of the tissue structure which results in localized inflammation and swelling. Also, damaged during this traumatic stretching are small nerves that are in the ligaments called mechanoreceptors. It is the purpose of the mechanoreceptors to send messages to the brain, relaying the position and movement of the spinal joint and vertebra as well as registering pain. When these mechanoreceptors are damaged, they send faulty messages to the brain, giving incorrect joint position and vertebra movement, which area also associated with pain. Since the brain is receiving incorrect input, the messages it sends to the surrounding neck muscles result in improper muscle functioning which results in muscle spasm, poor coordination and further limited joint motion.

Since the vertebral joints are already registering as painful and not moving correctly, this improper muscle functioning creates more stress and strain on the injured ligaments resulting in continued irritation, damage and inflammation to the weakened ligaments. This starts the whole process over, compounding the original injury. Thus, a chronic pain cycle develops of ligament injury, altered nerve impulses, abnormal motion and aggravation of injured ligaments.

The solution to this chronic pain cycle and helping to prevent disability is to restore the normal alignment and movement of the damaged joints, allowing the ligaments to repair themselves correctly. This is where chiropractic care comes in. Through proper diagnosis and correctly placed adjustments or manipulations, the chiropractor works with the healing power of your body to restore the normal spinal joint function, decreasing the stress and strain on the damaged ligament and nerves, interrupting and resetting this chronic pain cycle.

If you have experienced a recent whiplash injury or are suffering chronic pain from an old injury, take the step to stop the pain! Call your Hazelwood chiropractor today at (314) 731-4383 or CLICK TO CALL, ask for Dr. Martin.