“My Whiplash Was 5 Years Ago”


Can you experience whiplash from a car accident 5 years ago? The short answer is yes. Let’s look at how the neck is injured in whiplash and how trauma can produce symptoms years afters your accident.

Even in more moderate motor vehicle collisions with substantial car damage, symptoms rarely come on the day of the injury. When symptoms do occur immediately, this is a sign that the injury to the neck was more severe.  In most accidents we feel an initial shock more than anything else. When the vehicle has substantial damage, this can completely occupy our thoughts. How will we get to work? Our main concern is getting the car into the shop and arranging for a rental rather than seeing a doctor immediately.

Displacement of the Neck Bones

If neck pain begins, we take a few pain pills such as ibuprofen and the pain seems much better, even cured. But whiplash is much less straightforward than a simple tight muscle from over exertion.

Whiplash causes displacement of the neck bones from the stretched ligaments and discs. Over months the bones gradually creep further into the direction of the damaged ligaments. The tendency over time is for the misalignments to get worse since gravity works all the time. Once a critical threshold is reached, the nerves become irritated and pain develops. An initial little problem has now become much worse because the neck has healed in this abnormal position. Now the neck is held in an abnormal position by the scar formation resulting from the injury.

Compensating for an Abnormal Neck Position

When injury occurs we may adapt or compensate to the abnormal position. But over time the limits to this compensation are passed, producing pain. Because of the scar formation that develops after injury, the joints of the spine may not move normally. To compensate for this limited motion at some joints, others have to take up the slack. These joints then become hypermobile, producing irritation to the nerves and spinal cord. The hypermobility is produced by stretched-out ligaments. As months and even years pass, the stretched ligaments become even more stretched due to the effects of gravity and the movements of our head in every day life. The athlete may notice these changes right away because their physical performance is something they are very accustomed to. In someone with a more sedentary life-style, the neck pain, stiffness, or headaches may come on months or even years after the injury.

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN A CAR ACCIDENT?

If you have been injured in an auto accident, please do not wait to find relief. Help is just a phone call away. Give Dr. Birk a call at (905) 264-9355 and begin your path back to health.

 

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