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How Whiplash Trauma Causes Weak Muscles

Posted Jun 15 2012 12:00am
Whiplash symptoms san francisco We have been providing treatment for whiplash in San Francisco for over 20 years. One of the classic signs of whiplash trauma to the neck or low back is weak muscles in the arm or legs (see explanation below). So therefore muscle testing is one of the primary tools we use for assessing whiplash patients and monitoring progress.

Whiplash, as previously discussed, occurs quicker than the speed at which we can voluntarily contract our muscles in attempt to guard ourselves against injury. Hence, it is nearly impossible to properly brace in anticipation of an impending collision. When muscles, ligament, and joint capsules become injured, there is pain, and as a result, reflex muscle spasm occurs as the body attempts to “splint” the area to protect it. This sometimes sets up a vicious cycle which can make the pain last longer, hurt more intensely and / or hurt more frequently. Because of pain, as well as direct muscle injury that sometimes occurs in whiplash associated disorders (WAD), the natural tendency is to stop doing many activities and guard against motion both because of pain and the fear of it hurting worse. In both cases, the result is the same: muscle atrophy or shrinkage and muscle weakness due to not using the muscle.

There are other reasons that muscles become weak. When an injury occurs, a herniated or “ruptured” disk can injure the spinal nerves exiting the spine. The disk is like a jelly donut where the center is liquid-like surrounded by a thick ring of fibrocartilage and functions as a “shock-absorber” as it sits between 2 vertebral bodies.

Think of the spinal nerves like electrical wires that connect a fuse box to a house. The fuse box is the spinal cord and each wire represents the spinal nerves going to different parts of the house (body). In the cervical spine or neck, each wire goes to different parts like the head, shoulder, arm, and hand and innervates specific areas. Patients who have a pinched nerve from a whiplash injury describe their symptoms as numbness, tingling, pain and/or muscle weakness in a specific distribution or area.

There are 8 pairs of nerves in the neck that travel to different parts of the head (C1-3), the shoulders (C4, 5), and the arm (C6-T2). Let’s say a patient has numbness and tingling down the arm to the 4th & 5th fingers and the pinky side of the hand. That immediately tells us as chiropractors that the C8 nerve is injured (pinched) because that’s the pain pattern of the C8 nerve.  Certain muscles are controlled by C8 that we can test in our office to determine if they are weak (abnormal) or strong (normal).

We grade the weakness between 0-5 (5=normal). The chiropractic treatment is aimed at un-pinching the nerve which results in a return of normal nerve function or no numbness/tingling and a strong C8 muscle (finger flexion strength). To accomplish this, we may use a combination of treatments such as spinal adjustments, mobilization, traction, exercises, and/or modalities (electric stim, deep tissue laser therapy, ultrasound or others). We also incorporate soft tissue therapies such as Graston and Active Release Technique (ART).

We realize you have a choice in where you choose your healthcare services.  If you, a friend or family member requires care for whiplash, we sincerely appreciate the trust and confidence shown by choosing our services and look forward in serving you and your family presently and, in the future.

To schedule an appointment with a San Francisco Whiplash Doctor call 415-392-2225. Mention this blog post for a complimentary consultation.

Serving Zip code local 94111 and surrounding areas in the Financial District for over 20 years.

Related Articles:

Recovering from a Whiplash Injury

Whiplash: what causes the neck and back pain?

Whiplash: How long does it take to recover?

 

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