Sprain and Strain Equals Soft Tissue Equals Whiplash

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By  Chandra Cunningham, DC

When you are injured, especially after a motor vehicle accident, you may hear the terminology: whiplash injury, soft tissue injury, and sprain/strain injury. What do they mean and do they mean the same thing?

In a motor vehicle accident, your body jerks, or whips around, especially the head and neck areas. The head and neck hyperextends backwards and then hyper-flexes forwards when the impact is from the rear. When the impact is from the front, the head and neck hyper-flexes forwards and then hyperextends backwards. If the impact has a sideways component, the head and neck may also whip sideways. When the head and neck move beyond its normal range of motion, the abnormal motion can cause damage to the spine and the structures around the spine.

The opposite of soft tissue is hard tissue and hard tissue in the body is anything hard or that has calcified, such as bone. The bones of the head makes up the cranium and the spine is made up of vertebral segments that protects the spinal cord. The main part of the vertebra is called the body and back part of the vertebra is called the spinous process, the bumps you feel down the middle of the neck and back. During hyperflexion, abnormal force impacts the front part of the vertebral body and on hyperextension, the abnormal force impacts the spinous process. If enough force is applied, fractures occur in those areas.

Soft tissue is the collective term for structures that surround and support bone and organs. Soft tissues consists of ligaments, muscles, fat, nerves, blood vessels, etc. Ligaments connect vertebral segments to each other and when the vertebral segments move past its normal motion, stretching or tearing of the ligaments occur, called Sprains. Muscles that have been stretched or torn are called Strains.

Therefore, soft tissue injuries of ligaments and muscles are called Sprain/Strain injuries. Since these injuries were caused by the ‘whipping’ motion of the head and neck, some may call this Whiplash Injuries. Different groups use different terminology. Medical providers may use the terminology Muscle Strain/Ligament Sprain Injury; insurance companies or attorneys may say Soft Tissue Injury; when you talk to your family or friends, they may call it Whiplash Injury. The meaning behind the different terminology is close enough that it can be used interchangeably.

If you or somebody you know has been in a car accident, be sure that you seek medical attention from a car accident doctor or car accident chiropractor to treat your injuries. Visit Chambers Medical Group  to receive world-class medical treatment for your injuries.

Chambers Medical Group has car accident medical clinics in the following locations:

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