Spotlight on Neck Injuries
INTRODUCTION TO NECK INJURIES
This series on injuries serves to highlight a few common, every-day injuries and provide some background. Any physical damage should be dealt with by a medical practitioner or trained physiotherapist, who will recommend if any specialist intervention is required.
This is not an exhaustive list and does not contain comprehensive detail. The selection of injuries will be added to on an ad hoc, but regular basis.
A quick look at neck injuries
South Africa has a shocking record of road accidents. One of the impacts on our bodies is whiplash and whiplash associated disorders (WAD), both classified as neck injuries. Although vehicle collisions are the main cause, others include sports injury, shaking baby syndrome, blows to the head from a falling object and instances of major movement/collision.
Whiplash affects variable areas of the cervical spine, depending on the force and direction of impact. In a whiplash injury, bony structures, ligaments, muscles, neurological pathways and other connective tissue may be affected.
In addition, secondary disorders can arise, such as oedema (swelling from excessive accumulation of watery fluid in cells, tissues, or main cavities), haematoma (small area of bleeding) and inflammation.
There may be up to 48 hrs delay from the initial injury to the onset of symptoms. Other associated symptoms include cervical spine instability, neurological symptoms, dizziness, tinnitus, visual disturbances, difficulty sleeping due to pain and difficulty concentrating / bad memory.
It is important to have a thorough spinal examination and neurological examination after any major incident where you suspect you or others have neck injuries. A whiplash can be an acute or chronic disorder. In acute whiplash, symptoms last no more than 2-3 months, while in chronic whiplash symptoms last longer than three months. 85% of patients with WAD generally recover within 6 months. Physiotherapists can also help with all musculo-skeletal symptoms , such as pain, tightness, headaches, posture, etc