Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ

Question:

I was rear-ended in a minor car accident six weeks ago. I'm still having neck pain from it. It wasn't really a huge impact, so why am I still having symptoms?

Answer:

The source of pain after whiplash injuries remains a mystery. Researchers are getting closer to solving the puzzle, but don't have all the answers yet.

In one study at Yale University School of Medicine, scientists confirm that joint sliding and compression cause injury of the nearby soft tissues. The cartilage, synovium, and nearby ligament are in danger of inflammation.

The nerves and blood vessels to the area become sensitive. This causes pain with normal motion. Damage to the joints can also cause neck muscles to misfire and contract at the wrong time. Over time, this change in normal firing patterns causes pain and spasm.

The force of the impact does make a difference. In other words, the greater the force, the more likely damage will occur. A minor impact may have the same effect as a higher force if there is arthritis present or some other damage from prior injury or accident. It's just a guess and hasn't been proven yet.

Adam M. Pearson, BA, et al. Facet Joint Kinematics and Injury Mechanisms During Simulated Whiplash. In Spine. February 15, 2004. Vol. 29. No. 4. Pp. 390-397.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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