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Channel: Vital Touch, LLC
Hi, this is Mark with Vital Touch, here to talk to you about a common neck injury called "whiplash." "Whiplash" is a layman’s term that’s currently being used to refer to just about any neck injury sustained in a motor vehicle accident. To really understand the mechanism of this injury and what it does to the body, we have to consider the proper medical term. The proper medical term for "whiplash" is hyperextension hyper flexion cervical spine strain. What does all that mean?
Well, first let’s consider what part of the body we’re talking about. The cervical spine is the neck, it’s the top 7 vertebrae that go from the base of your skull to the top of your shoulders, where the thoracic spine begins. To really understand this injury, we have to understand that there are two phases: The hyperextension phase and the hyper flexion phase, and there’s some interplay between them.
So first is the hyperextension phase. This happens at the first impact. So if you’re sitting in your car, and struck from behind, the first thing that happens is the torso comes forward. The head usually remains in place. So as the torso comes forward, the neck goes into the hyperextension phase. Extension is when your head goes back, and if it goes back a little too far that’s called hyperextension. So as you can see with this movement, it stretches the muscles in the anterior aspect of the neck. Now this used to be a much more serious injury, before the advent of headrests and other restrictive equipment. Before airbags this used to be a much more serious injury, because during the hyperextension phase there was nothing to stop the head from going back. So this led not only to the stretching of these muscles, but in the more extreme cases, the muscles being torn off of their bony attachments. Your body moves because the muscles are attached to bone. You have muscles like your scalenes which attach to your first rib, muscles like the sternecleidomastoid which attach to your sternum. In the more extreme cases, these muscles would rip right off their attachments, which is called an avulsion. That’s something that has to be repaired surgically, provided this person survives the accident. And in some cases, the trachea or windpipe was ruptured, in which case the person would not survive the accident. But assuming that this person does survive the accident, there’s still that stretch, there’s still that stretching of the anterior muscles. Now the body has it’s own intelligence, the muscles realize that they’re being overly stretched. They realize that and they contract to protect themselves. So as they contract out of a sense of panic this brings the head into a hyper flexion situation, which stretches the muscles in the back of the neck. Muscles like trapezius, levator scapula. As those muscles get stretched they panic and contract, yanking the head back into hyperextension again. So in the more extreme cases, there was some of this back and forth motion as the muscles panic until the head reaches a neutral position. Now with modern seat belts and modern airbags, this has become less of an issue, although there have been cases where people had an impact against the airbag and injuries sustained from that. But if you’ve had an injury like this, or know somebody who has, don’t hesitate to contact me. i would be glad to help you. I have an office in a suburb of the Denver, Colorado area called Wheat Ridge, and I can be reached at 303.819.0097. Thanks for watching, hope to see you soon.
Video length: 5:30
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