Middle Cervical Spine Spotlighted in Whiplash InjuriesModern technology continues to open new doors of study for researchers. The study of neck injuries from car accidents is one such field. Until now, it's been hard to see or show any actual change in the cervical spine after low-speed car accidents. Patients complain of painful symptoms, but X-rays and other imaging studies often don't show anything.
The marriage of imaging and computers has made it possible to get a closer look. Researchers in Iceland compared two groups of patients with neck problems. The first group had chronic neck pain from whiplash after a car accident. The second group reported chronic neck pain of unknown cause. All patients were women between the ages of 16 and 48 years.
Digital radiography with computer analysis was used to look at neck motion at three levels in the spine of the neck (the cervical spine). Motion at each segment was measured and analyzed. More women in the whiplash group had excess motion. This extra motion is called hypermobility. The middle cervical spine was affected the most.
The researchers think that increased motion in the middle cervical spine after whiplash injury may be what leads to chronic pain. Knowing this, treatment aimed at the specific problem might bring better results. This study only looked at three levels of neck motion. We still don't know if the changes seen occur right away or develop weeks to months later. The authors suggest more research is needed to compare all segments over time.
Eythor Kristjansson, PT, BSc, et al. Increased Sagittal Plane Segmental Motion in the Lower Cervical Spine in Women with Chronic Whiplash-Associated Disorders, Grades I-II: A Case-Control Study Using a New Measurement Protocol. In Spine. October 1, 2003. Vol. 28. No. 19. Pp. 2215-2221.
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