Whiplash and Permanent Ligament Damage
Car accidents are a reality of life when you live in a metro area. Unfortunately, many times these accidents cause injury to the neck and upper back, commonly called a whiplash injury. These injuries can result in permanent damage to spinal structures.
The most common structures that are injured in a whiplash type injury are the muscle tendons and the ligaments. To give us a mental picture, you can liken muscles to rubber bands: they have the ability to stretch and contract back to normal. Ligaments are like leather, they do not stretch well and do not have the ability to bounce back. When healthy, the various ligament hold the spinal bones together and can act like a hinge, allowing the elastic muscles to move the spinal bones within a normal range of motion.
However, the sudden and forceful trauma of a whiplash type injury can over stretch the muscle and cause a damaging stretch of the ligaments. Once damaged, they begin a healing process. Unfortunately, this healing process is not all with normal tissue, there is a significant amount of scar tissue that is formed. In reality, they are never 100% normal or healthy again.
This scar tissue can have a permanent affect on the spinal joint. Woo et al. (1999) state that, “Injury to these structures can cause significant joint instability, which may lead to injury of other tissues and the development of degenerative joint disease.” (p. 212-213). Another study reports that 39% of those injured develop degenerative changes to the damaged joints. (Hohl et al, Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery)
Proper exam, diagnosis and treatment is crucial for car accident victims if they want to keep the permanent injury to a minimum. The damaged tissue progresses through three stages of healing, each with their own goals. Each stage must be managed correctly if permanent problems are to be kept at a minimum.
Simply put, damaged ligaments and muscles do not completely heal, they always have some form of residual weakness that can affect the stability of the spinal joints.
If you or someone you know has sustained a whiplash type injury, call our office today at 314.731.4383. Early care is the best way to minimize the damage.
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