If I said “Car crash!”… you might say “Whiplash!”….and rightly so! Whiplash… that’s our subject… What is it and what does it look like?
WHAT IS WHIPLASH?
A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology: “Cervical acceleration-deceleration (CAD)
Webster’s Dictionary: “1. The lash of a whip. 2. A sudden, sharp jolting of the neck backward and then forward, done to a person in a car hit from the rear.”
Adding to that definition, we know other car accidents including seatbelts and airbag deployment cause whiplash as well as sports injuries, falls, fallen objects, assaults, and shamefully; shaken-baby syndrome.
Whiplash is the term used to describe the sudden jolting of the neck and the soft-tissue injuries of the cervical spine (better known as the neck), which are the muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, and discs. It can include fractures, subluxations, sprains, strains and cerebral concussion.
This is huge!
Let’s pretend to be one of those fancy cameras that just keep flashing to catch the sequences of something in motion. Before we get started, a point of reference…If you hit a pole or get struck from behind, the sequences are the same only in reverse order. So, here we’ll deal with a rear-end collision, in slow motion.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE MUSCLES?
At the time of the collision, the momentum of the car seat forces the thorax forward and overstretched muscles in the neck go into a state of contraction to splint the head and spine to protect you against further injury. About 100 milliseconds later, the head and neck are propelled into flexion and thrown back and forth, a protective reflex, called “stretch reflex”, tightened the muscles of the neck to prevent excessive motion which might otherwise have fractured your neck and damaged your spinal cord. Those muscular contractions formed a natural splint which automatically and quickly braced your spine, which is desperate to protect you! The entire neuromuscular system is at a high state of survival making this emergency situation a shock to the system. Shocks to the system tend to make lasting memories, creating protective, reflexive reactions. Suddenly, a tension habit was formed.
The crisis is over…. Or is it? No, the crisis is not over. Within minutes in many cases of whiplash injury, neck muscles become painful, stiff, fatigued and sore. If the vertebrae move because of unequal muscular tension, that tension of spinal misalignment pulls the vertebrae of the neck closer together, making the neck shorter, thicker and stiffer, sometimes leading to pinched nerves that cause pain and numbness.
Let’s look at the signs, symptoms, and complications of whiplash.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS/COMPLICATIONS:
LIGAMENT SPRAINS: REFER PAIN SIMILARLY TO LOCAL NERVE ROOTS
MISALIGNED CERVICAL VERTEBRAE: CAN GO IN ANY DIRECTION
DAMAGED DISC: MOST COMMON CAUSE OF HERNIATED CERVICAL DISCS
SPASM: SPLINTING MECHANISM WHEN LIGAMENTS ARE WEAK
TRIGGER POINTS: REFER PAIN TO HEAD
NEUROLOGICAL SYMPTOMS: DIZZINESS, BLURRED VISION, HEADACHES, TINNITUS…
CAN BE RELATED TO CONCUSSION OR BLEEDING
TMJ DISORDERS: “JAW LASH”
HEADACHES: FROM ANY OF THE ABOVE
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE VICTIM?
They are usually seen by a medical doctor, who assesses the damage; from there they may be referred to any one of these “treatment people”… chiropractor, physical therapist, orthopedic surgeons, exercise physiologists or a neurologist.
Until recently the profession of massage therapy had been omitted from these “treatment people.” It has been added because we can now offer therapeutic massage… massage that causes change.
The damage the body undergoes in a whiplash affects muscle groups of the top and back of the head, the front and back of the neck, plus pain at the neck referring into the shoulders and arms.
The Spine Research Institute of San Diego reports an estimated 3 million whiplash injuries occur each year. It also reports that 45% of people with chronic neck pain attribute the pain to past motor-vehicle-collision injuries!
It has been said that “therapeutic massage is one of the most effective therapies for releasing muscle tension and restoring balance to the musculoskeletal system.”
Why? Because a therapeutic massage can help. It can help…
relax the muscles to ease stress and tension,
increase and maintain range of motion,
decrease stress and tension to accelerate healing,
increase circulation to aid healing, and
and break down excess scar tissue formation.
Drive carefully, save my neck!
PARAVERTEBRAL MUSCLES AFFECTED
NECK: FRONT (THROAT)