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How are ligaments injured in an auto accident?
Introducing Auto Accident Ligament Injuries:
Auto accident injuries are serious. Whiplash, often called a Cervical Acceleration Deceleration injury can lead to pain if untreated. To complicate matters further ligaments are commonly injured as well. You can’t directly feel ligament injuries cannot. If undiagnosed and untreated the joints surrounded by the ligaments often deteriorate with arthritis. In this article we will answer common questions about ligament injuries from auto accidents.
What makes up ligaments?
Fibrous-like connective tissue makes up ligaments. Their main purpose is linking bones together. They are flexible like a rubber band, but also have rigid properties. Their stiffness means they do a great job of supporting bones. Don’t confuse ligaments with tendons or fascia although all three have similar structures. Tendons connect muscles to bones and fascia connects bones with muscles and organs. 1.
What ligaments are often injured?
The anterior longitudinal ligament and the posterior longitudinal ligament are most often injured. As you can see in the picture these ligaments run the entire length of the spine. They hold the spinal bones in place and allow for the spine to bend and move as needed. The enlarged image shows the upper cervical spine. This area and the head are susceptible to trauma following an auto accident.
What is the purpose of ligaments?
Ligaments hold bones together, provide stability and help keep joints lubricated. Ligaments prevent the bones from moving too far past their limit. You can visualize the ligaments like rubber bands holding bones together. Even under normal use, rubber bands wear out. But, what happens if you stretch a rubber band too far? It will not return back to normal and it will likely wear out sooner. What happens if the rubber band is over stretched? It may start to rip in or even completely tear and break. Our ligaments are much stronger than rubber bands, but they have their limit. Unfortunately you cannot buy a new ligament like you can a rubber band.
The image above demonstrates the quick head movement seen in an auto accident. Acceleration of the head is what causes injuries in an auto accident. Quick acceleration and deceleration moves the head as shown in the picture above. This arcing movement places tremendous stress on the spinal ligaments. The head of a adult weighs approximately the same as an average bowling ball (9-12 pounds). When a vehicle strikes from the front or rear, the lead vehicle moves forward. The head remains in place while the car, persons body and neck moves under the head. The muscles, ligaments and soft tissue in the neck are under tremendous stress. The body’s tissue strains trying to hold the head in place. These acceleration forces happen too fast for a person to respond. Tightened muscles cannot protect the head and neck from injury. 2.
Can we feel ligament injuries?
Ligaments are deep in the body, hence they are difficult for us to feel. Ligaments have nerve endings, but poor blood flow. 3 You cannot “feel” injured ligaments. Often a person feels a deep pain sensation. They may experience deep aches and pains throughout the neck, head and shoulders. This is often why ligament injuries go undiagnosed. People do not complain about ligament injuries. Instead they complain about the symptoms related to ligament injuries. Undiagnosed torn ligaments lead to serious degenerative joint conditions. Untreated chronic degenerative joint disease is known as arthritis. Severe cases need surgery to stabilize the joint near the torn ligaments.
For more information about ligament injuries see the next article…
What 3 facts should you know about ligaments and auto accidents?
1.J Anat. 1992 Jun;180 ( Pt 3):515-9. The human anterior cruciate ligament: histological and ultrastructural observations.
2. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 1990 Mar; 34(1): 40–41.
Whiplash Injuries, The Cervical Acceleration/Deceleration Syndrome
3. The Anatomical Record Volume 136, Issue 2, pages 137–147, February 1960
Nerve endings in human fasciae, tendons, ligaments, periosteum, and joint synovial membrane
Image 1 Source: By BruceBlaus (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Image 2 Source: By InjuryDoctorHelp.com [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
Image 3a Source: Nuchal Ligament
Image 3b Source: Public Domain