Last week I mentioned that a lot of the clients that I meet in my clinic who suffer from chronic neck and shoulder pain are people who previously suffered Whiplash injuries. Whiplash is mainly caused by car accidents but can also occur on the sports field. In a car accident whiplash can occur when the injured party’s vehicle has received rear impact from another vehicle, causing the neck to extend too far backwards. This is then followed by excessive bending of the neck as they are immediately thrown forward from the sudden rear impact. This results in overstretching & injury to the ligaments and muscles that extend and bend the neck. When muscles are overstretched, they then recoil into a tightened/shortened state, hence losing the normal range of motion that they had prior to the accident.
It is important to note here that:
Whiplash can occur also from front and side impact vehicle collisions.
Immediately after the accident, the driver & passengers who has suffered Whiplash should get an x-ray carried out on their cervical spine to ensure that no fracture has occurred.
Both driver & passengers be examined also for signs of concussion.
Whiplash injuries that are not fully treated and rehabilitated will continue to cause discomfort. Reduced movement of the neck, pain on twisting and turning the neck, neck stiffness in morning time, pins & needles into the hand, shoulder pain and headaches are all long term painful symptoms of whiplash Injury that has not been fully rehabilitated. The reason why this occurs is because the injured overstretched muscles have never been fully lengthened & strengthened to its normal state. Overtime these shortened muscles develop painful trigger points that restrict the muscles further, causing over-reliance on other neck muscles which too eventually become fatigued and tight because they are being over-worked.
My aim when treating chronic Whiplash discomfort is to lengthen these tight painful muscles thus increasing the client’s pain free neck movement. Treatment of the muscles that attach to the shoulder blade is also important as these muscles will have become tight and weak overtime as they too originate from the neck. Once normal pain-free neck motion has been restored, basic Neck & shoulder muscle strengthening exercises should then be incorporated into a rehabilitation programme with the benefit being that the client will be fully rehabilitated with pain-free normal neck movement.
Next week I will discuss some rehabilitation exercises for neck & shoulder pain.
Tomás Ryan is a Registered Physical Therapist with The Irish Association of Physical Therapy and is based in Thurles.
Contact Number: 086 3275 753
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Injury Solutions Clinic
Physiotherapy & Injury Rehabilitation Clinic in Tipperary