Soft Tissue (Whiplash) Injury

  1. Definition

    A Soft tissue injury (STI) is the damage of muscles, ligaments and tendons throughout the body. Common causes are sprains, strains, impacts, overuse of one area of the body. Whiplash is a soft tissue injury to the cervical vertebrae (neck).

    Whiplash is most commonly caused by a rear impact motor vehicle accident. The rear impact causes the head and neck to be forced into hyperextended (backward) position as the seat pushes the person’s torso forward – and the unrestrained head and neck fall backwards. After a short delay the head and neck then recover and are thrown into a hyperflexed (forward) position. This sudden movement causes the neck to stretch beyond its normal range damaging the tissue the tissues that hold the cervical vertebrae together (ligaments, facet capsules, tendons, muscles).

  2. Symptoms and Treatment

    The symptoms of whiplash can include neck pain and stiffness, shoulder pain and stiffness, limited range of motion, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, jaw pain, tinnitus, arm pain and weakness, visual disturbance and back pain.

    In more severe or chronic cases associated problems can arise. These symptoms can include, depression, anxiety, frustration, anger, stress, sleep disturbance, post-traumatic stress syndrome and drug dependency.

    In the past, the initial treatment for whiplash was often the use of a soft cervical collar. It was thought that by reducing the range of motion of the neck it would prevent any additional injuries. More recent studies have shown that this prolonged immobilization actually slows the healing process. If spinal alignment is normal, early range of motion is advised.

    Patients involved in early range of motion exercises have been shown to have a more reliable and rapid improvement in their symptoms. Rotational exercises performed frequently as soon as symptoms allow, usually within the first four days of the accident, is the typical initial treatment.

    Excessive rest and immobilization have been shown to increase the chances of chronic symptoms. This is explained by loss of range of motion leading to increased pain and stiffness.

    Immobilization also causes muscle wasting, decreased blood flow to the injured soft tissues and damaged muscles healing in shortened position that renders them less flexible.

    Soft tissue injuries heal faster with massage therapy performed by a registered massage therapist. The specifically targeted massage reduces spasm, pain, swelling and the formation of scar tissue. It increases blood flow to the area which speeds up the healing process.

    Physical therapy is frequently recommended to help strengthen muscles and reduce painful motions and increase range of motion.

    If the patient begins to develop psychological symptoms including anger, anxiety or depression following an injury, prompt treatment of the emotional condition is recommended. This can help the patient better understand the good chances for successful recovery and reduce the chances of chronic symptoms.

  3. What we can do to help

    Soft tissue injuries cannot be independently verified as they are not revealed with the usual investigative procedures such as x-rays or ultrasounds. This means the pain and symptoms experienced are subjective in nature making it difficult to prove the nature and extent of your injuries to an insurance company.

    With our expertise we can assist you in taking the steps to assist with a good recovery from your injuries while build a convincing claim to receive the compensation that you deserve.

    It is imperative that you see your doctor on a regular basis and follow any recommendations they make regarding treatment. An insurance adjuster is more apt to be convinced you have truly suffered an injury when they can see that you have sought medical attention regularly and tried to improve your injuries by following the treatment recommendations of your doctor.

    It is important to remember that an insurance adjuster will not just accept your word that you have been injured, medical records from your doctor and treatment providers are considered evidence. Your injuries and symptoms are noted as is the length of your recovery.

    If you need treatment that you cannot afford, we can assist you by obtaining benefits from the insurance company, obtaining an injury loan or referring you to a treatment provider that will delay payment for services until your claim settles.

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