The risk of persistent problems after experiencing a whiplash injury has been shown to be quite high. One literature review concluded that “between 14% and 42% of patients with whiplash injuries have chronic neck pain and that approximately 10% of this group experience constant severe pain.” If patients are still symptomatic after three months, there is an almost 90% chance that they will remain so. Another investigative group looked at whiplash-exposed patients an average of seven years after injury and found a two-to-three times greater prevalence of headaches, neck and back pain.
Defining the Injury
Many practitioners and researchers still use the terms “whiplash injury,” or “whiplash associated disorder.” These expressions relate to the common concept of the injury as caused by the head being “whipped” back and forth on the neck. However, biomechanics research has defined the mechanism of this injury much more accurately.
A well-designed investigation by Panjabi et al. clarified the intervertebral kinematics and quantified the functional injuries to the soft tissues. Dr. Panjabi’s group found an injury mechanism much more complex than cervical hyperextension. They documented very clearly that the spine initially translates (a straight-line motion), with practically no head extension. They described an “S-shaped curve resulting in local extension of the lower cervical spine with upper cervical spine flexion”.
Another study identified that immediately after the initial “retraction” phase of posterior translation, the head translates forward rapidly in a “rebound” phase, causing potentially injurious lengthening (eccentric) contractions of the neck muscles.
Understanding these dynamics helps explain the constellation of injuries observed in patients who have been struck from behind. Even at low speeds, the nervous system is “jolted” during this translation movement. A jolt is “a sudden, unexpected, forced stretching and/or reflex contraction of skeletal muscle induced by a barrage of impulses from receptors in muscle spindles and joint capsules.” This can cause a “generalized central hyper excitability” of the nervous system, and result in muscular hyperalgesia and large referred pain areas. The resulting joint capsule damage requires a phase-specific pillow protocol to help manage this condition.
Please contact our office at 238.8888 to find out how chiropractic can restore the cervical function after a whiplash injury.
Article taken from Foot Levelers Balanced Insights Volume 4 Issue 1