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Injuries Resulting from Whiplash Trauma
As we discussed briefly in the introduction, whiplash injuries can manifest in a wide variety of ways, including neck pain, headache, fatigue, upper back and shoulder pain, cognitive changes and low back pain.  Due to the fact that numerous factors play into the overall whiplash trauma suffered during a car accident, such as direction of impact, speed of the vehicles involved, as well as sex, age and physical condition, it is impossible to predict the pattern of symptoms that each individual will suffer after a Car Wreck.  Additionally, whiplash symptoms commonly have a delayed onset, often taking weeks or months to present.  There are, however, a number of conditions that are very common among those who have suffered from whiplash trauma.
Neck pain
It is the single most common complaint in whiplash trauma, being reported by over 90% of patients!  Often this pain radiates across the shoulders, up into the head, and down between the shoulder blades.  Whiplash injuries tend to affect all of the tissues in the neck, including the facet joints and discs between the vertebrae, as well as all of the muscles, ligaments and nerves.

Facet Joint Pain

Facet joint pain is the most common cause of neck pain following an auto accident.  Facet joint pain is usually felt on the back of the neck, just to the right or left of center, and is usually tender to the touch.  Facet joint pain cannot be visualized on x-rays or MRIs.  It can only be diagnosed by physical palpation of the area and should only be performed by a specially trained and specifically qualified Chiropractor.

Disc Injury

Disc injury is also a common cause of neck pain; especially chronic pain.  The outer wall of the disc (called the anulus) is made up of bundles of fibers that can be torn during a whiplash trauma or an Auto Injury.  These tears, then, can lead to disc degeneration or herniation, resulting in irritation or compression of the nerves running through the area.  This compression or irritation commonly leads to radiating pain into the arms, shoulders and upper back, and may result in muscle weakness.

Muscle Strain 

Damage to the muscles and ligaments in the neck and upper back are the major cause of the pain experienced in the first few weeks following a whiplash injury, and is the main reason why you experience stiffness and restricted range of motion.  But as the muscles have a chance to heal, they typically don't cause as much actual pain as they contribute to abnormal movement.  Damage to the ligaments often results in abnormal movement and instability.

Low back pain

Although most people consider whiplash to be an injury of the neck, the low back is also commonly injured as well.  In fact, low back pain is found in more than half of rear impact-collisions in which injury was reported, and almost three-quarters of all side-impact car accidents.  This is mostly due to the fact that the low back still experiences a tremendous compression during the first two phases of a whiplash injury, even though it does not have the degree of flexion-extension injury experienced in the neck.

 Dr. Pete Sottile is a Chiropractor serving Drexel Hill, Havertown, Upper Darby, Broomall, Springfield, Clifton Heights, and Lansdowne, PA. 

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