If you have been in an accident and you have experienced any stiffness or soreness, chances are that a doctor uses the term “soft tissue” to describe your injuries. Although the term itself might sound benign, these injuries can be serious and often take months to heal – and in unique instances, never do really heal.
Soft tissue includes the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves. Soft-tissue injuries are micro-tears to the muscles and ligaments that are more painful and take longer to heal than a broken bones. Sprains and strains mean something has stretched beyond normal. Muscle tissue may become strained when forced to exceed its ability to work. Besides muscle tissue, sprains and strains can affect a ligament or tendon. Ligaments attach bone to bone, while tendons attach muscle to bone.
A sprained ankle is an example of a soft-tissue injury as it involves a sprain to a ligament. Sprains and strains occur when a person forces his or her muscles to perform beyond what the person does on a routine basis. Muscle tissue may become strained when forced to exceed its ability to work.
Whiplash is a neck injury that usually occurs when the car you are sitting in is rear-ended by another vehicle, causing your head to suddenly snap backward and then forward, similar to someone cracking a whip. These extreme motions push your neck muscles and ligaments beyond their normal range of motion. The bulk of the back is muscle and may be injured by excessive force. Up to half of the people who suffer whiplash will continue to have pain months after the injury. In some persons, this chronic pain can be traced to damage in the joints, disks, and ligaments of the neck. While many people recover from whiplash in a few months, some people with whiplash injuries develop chronic conditions that can be extremely painful and disabling. The symptoms of sprain and strain include sudden, sharp, and persistent pain at the injury site followed by swelling.
Whiplash—also called neck sprain and neck strain—is a soft-tissue injury resulting from a hyperextension and hyperflexion that may cause micro-trauma to the soft tissues in the neck and upper back. The forces to the spine incurred during an automobile accident may cause the head and neck to suddenly and rapidly move forward, backward, and sideways. Muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the spine incurred during a car accident may cause the head and neck to suddenly and rapidly move forward, backward, and sideways. Muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the spine may become stretched beyond normal limits, causing micro-trauma or small tears in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons, causing symptoms such as pain and burning. There is currently no specific treatment for whiplash, but health care professionals use physical therapy, oral pain relievers and muscle relaxants, chiropractics, immobilization of the neck with a soft cervical collar, massage, heat, ice, injection, and ultrasound.