How to Deal with a Strain or Sprain

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Woman having chiropractic back adjustment

By Dr. Derek Harting

Whiplash is a common diagnosis traditionally given to people who have injured their neck following a traumatic experience. Clinically, it describes a strain or sprain injury to any part of the spine. Strain and sprain injuries are typically defined as a combination stretch, rupture, or separation injury of the muscles and supporting ligaments of the spine. As a result of uncontrolled movements or direct trauma, stretching and tearing of spinal muscles and their attachments can occur. These types of injuries may be due to work or sports injuries, car accidents, continuous use, or micro trauma. Mild muscle strains may result from overuse or repetitive tasks. Other contributing factors include muscular imbalances, leg length discrepancies, or excessive foot pronation.

Patients commonly show signs and symptoms of immediate, constant pain followed by pain-free intervals which leads to stiffness, spasm, and decreased mobility. Pain can range from sharp and intense to a dull ache and throb. In low complexity cases, pain is localized but can radiate to regions above and below the injured site. Frequently patients have difficulty rising from bed or a seated position due to muscle spasm or muscle contraction. Strains are painful with active and isometric movements, whereas sprains are painful in active and passive range of motion. Joint stiffness and pain can restrict range of motion (ROM) in any or all planes.

If you feel you have been injured due to an accident, it’s most important to be evaluated by a medical or chiropractic physician as soon as possible. The early treatment of strain sprain or whiplash injuries help prevent the development of myofascial adhesions and osteophytes. Typical treatment goals include pain relief, promote soft tissue healing, increase pain-free ROM, restore normal strength and stability to joint structure, and quickly proceed to rehabilitation or restoration of function. In the past whiplash injuries were treated by immobilization using a soft neck collars however, current treatment protocols encourage early movement instead of immobilization depending on patient presentation and examination results. Healing rates are variable and individual-dependent but commonly:

-Mild strains/sprains may take 7 days to 4 weeks to heal.

-Moderate strains may take 2 to 4 weeks to heal.

-Moderate sprains may take one month to one year to heal.

-Severe strains sprains may need surgical repair.

  1. Certain bones of our body, like ribs, are particularly fragile. During a violent car impact, ribs might break, especially if you are pushed outside of the car or towards other parts of the car. Such a physical impact require long periods of rest and, of course, the immediate help of qualified doctors.
  2. Bleeding is possibly one of the most typical physical injuries during a car accident. Either you are bleeding from your nose, lips or you have internal bleeding, you need urgent help and assistance to stop the blood flow. In particular, internal bleeding represents the most serious injuries, because most of the times people (included the patient) can’t actually see the bleeding.
  3. Herniated disc is another frequent personal injury which can happen during a car accident. It’s similar to broken bones as it consists of the rupture of one or more vertebrae of your spine.

Other Consequences After A Car Accident

It’s not a rule that car drivers/passengers have to get injured during a car accident. It might also happen that both parties don’t get any injury, yet they might suffer from mental and emotional disorders due to the accident. Car accidents, even the simplest ones, may easily turn into psychological traumas: feeling guilty for the damages to the car and/or objects or people is one of the most common reactions.

Some people have frequent nightmares after the day of the car accident. Consider that even a car lockout emergency may become a nightmare: by luck, you can call a qualified car locksmith from to help you get back on the road safe and sound.

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