Research shows that auto injuries can actually weaken your neck ligaments. The ligaments keep your spine stable and spinal joints stable and protect the spinal cord and spinal nerves. During a car crash, your neck is exposed to a rapid, violent motion that may strain or tear the ligaments.
Ligaments are strong pliable fibers that provide proper joint position and protect spinal joints from excess motion – that is until they are stretched and weakened as a result of a car crash.
A torn or weakened ligament allows for an excess range of motion at the inured site, excess range of motion results in bone spurs (osteophytes). The bone spurs can extend into the spinal canal and openings where the nerves exit the spine.
These bone sours can compress the spinal cord or nerves as well as muscles. This can result in neurological deficits and eventually surgical intervention.
A 2006 study from Japan performed an anatomical study of the human neck under simulated whiplash motion. They found that the forces involved in even a mild collision can stretch the ligaments to a point that reduces their ability to stabilize the spine.
Weakened ligaments can result in permanent disability and chronic pain, as the spine can lose its stability and integrity.
So, the next time you hear “it is only a soft tissue injury” remember the ligaments are soft tissue.
Tominaga Y, Ndu AB, Coe MP, et al. Neck ligament strength is decreased following whiplash trauma. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2006;7:103.
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