Whiplash Injuries – Soft Tissue

April 27, 2015

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A soft tissue injury occurs due to trauma to the body when the tissues that connect, support, or surround other structures and organs of the body are damaged. Soft tissue includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, nerves, fibrous tissues, fat, blood vessels, and synovial membranes.

In this type of injury, the spine and shoulders are often affected.  The affected area of the body show signs of a sprain or strain of the ligaments and the capsular structures which surround the spinal and shoulder joints as well as the muscle surrounding these joints.

Immediate disability follows injury to ligaments. Healing from a functional view point is seldom perfect. There may be a loss of tone and also lengthening of the supporting structures making the joint unstable.

Because soft tissue always heals with scar or fibrous tissues, it lacks the viability or elasticity of the original tissue, therefore soft tissue is always weaker after injury (whilst bone will be strengthened by scar tissue).

Injury to connective tissue in the body ( muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, disc) causes thickening of fascia and eventual restriction of motion.

Muscle injury can result in haemorrhage, or haematoma, and tearing by rupturing of small blood vessels within the muscle fibres. Whilst haemorrhages usually dissolve spontaneously, a haematoma that does not will cause further more extensive soft tissue damage.

Pain residuals, which may last for months or even years, may be due to the scar tissue which has replaced the previous normal tissue. Its inelastic quality can cause pain with every or certain movements. The lengthy period of healing may be explained by the fact that it takes a long time for soft tissue to heal and mend.

When articular surfaces have been wrenched apart during a traumatic incident, there is subsequent stretching and tearing of the ligaments and connective structures at their attachments. The cartilage surface may become devitalised, or wear down asymmetrically. Further, the cartilage can be lacerated by any twisting, violent motion or impact. The resulting incongruity and instability can be to traumatic arthritis.

Most people in their 30’s and 40’s demonstrate osteo-arthiritis in their spine. This results in imparied mobility of the spinal column and increases vulnerability. A traumatic type of injury imposed upon a dormant or asymptomatic osteo-arthiritic spine may aggravate or activate the existing osteo-arthritis.

27 April 2015

David R Ford, Special Counsel and former practitioner at Carneys

Accredited Specialist (Personal Injury)