Whiplash describes the neck injury (strain/sprain) following the exertion of great force on the neck through an abrupt back and forth motion, similar to that of a cracking whip. The most common cause is a rear-end car accident, though it can also occur in sports and other trauma such as being jerked back suddenly and forcefully by the shoulders. This can damage various structures including bones, muscles, soft tissues and intervertebral discs. The result is a variation in symptoms that commonly involve pain and stiffness in the neck as well as tenderness in the shoulders, back and arms, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, numbness or tingling in the arms. In more severe cases, symptoms can include vision and sleep disturbances, memory and concentration difficulties, stress, anxiety and more. There may be a delay of up to 24 hours before symptoms present. Because of the varying nature of whiplash with regard to the structures involved, it is important to have your health care professional accurately identify the damaged structures and construct a treatment plan as in some cases pain may continue for months or years following injury. Due to the sensitive nature of the neck closely packed with small ligaments, bones and nerves, it is important when having treatment to advise your therapist if the force they are using feels to firm or you experience any worsening of your symptoms during the treatment.
Upper Trapezius Muscle Strain/Sprain
The upper trapezius is a large muscle situated triangularly between the neck, shoulder and the middle area of your back. Injury to this muscle causes signiﬁcant pain and discomfort to the shoulder, arm and neck regions and can make moving the head, neck and shoulders painful and uncomfortable. It often presents with swelling and associated muscular weakness and stiffness. Strains on the upper trapezius are caused by abnormal stress on the muscle past what it can handle such as in repetitive overhead and push/pull movements as well as trauma.
Facet Joint Injury (Syndrome/Disease/Pain)
Facet joints are located in pairs between the spinal vertebrae and work to control the movement in the spine. Disturbances to the facet joints can cause them to have limited movement (stiffness), excess movement or become locked or jammed. Causes of stiffness in the facet joints is typically due to degenerative changes and changes to the associated musculature and soft tissues. Causes of excess movement include fractures, dislocation, excess movement in the surrounding soft tissues and some systemic diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis. Facet joints can also lock following abrupt movements, twists and trauma. Symptoms vary depending on which facet joints are injured (thoracic, lumbar or cervical) but typically involve pain, tenderness and stiffness in the affected area that can radiate down to the upper back leg or up to the shoulders and arms. Repetitive problems with the facet joints can indicate weakness in the muscles that serve to stabilise the spine, so a thorough assessment is required to develop a treatment programme that both resolves symptoms and prevents future re-injury.