Sprains, Strains And Whiplash: What Are They?
When people are injured in accidents, we often ask if they have any broken bones. If the answer is no, we then assume that the victim is likely not injured, or not seriously injured. But these are false assumptions, because our ligaments can also be damaged, and can cause serious pain and disability.
What are Ligaments?
Inside of our bodies, our parts have to be connected to each other. Our bones need to connect to each other, and they have to connect to the musculature that moves our skeleton. The part of our bodies that do this connecting, are the ligaments.
Some ligaments connect our bones to each other. A common one is called the anterior cruciate ligament or ACL. You may have heard about athletes suffering ACL injuries, but accident victims can suffer this kind of injury as well. An ACL is a tear or injury to the ligament that holds together our leg bones to our knees.
We also have ligaments in our neck that hold our neck bones in place. When these ligaments are injured, it is called a sprain. A sprain is an injury to a ligament that holds bones in the neck and throughout the body, together.
Our bones are connected to our musculature as well. When a ligament is injured that connects a bone to muscle it is called a strain. Often, people in car accidents suffer strains as well as sprains.
When these kinds of accidents happen in our neck area, people often refer to these injuries as “whiplash,” but that isn’t so much a medical term, as much as it is a description of how an accident happened. In other words, someone suffers whiplash, and the resulting injury is a sprain or strain (although it can also be worse than a sprain or strain).
Sprains and strains are often deceptive, because they do not appear on X-rays. Many people will go to an emergency room after an accident, have an X-ray, and assume they are fine, because the X-ray presents as negative. However, the X-ray does not pick up sprain strain injuries, many of which may not even manifest as painful until hours later or a day after the accident.
In most cases, sprain strain injuries will be treated with therapy, and perhaps some other in-office treatment; surgery is almost never recommended for a sprain strain injury. However, these kinds of injuries can still be serious.
Many people with sprain strain injuries will find that they improve, somewhat with medical care in the days and weeks after the accident. However, many will also never completely heal, or get to the point that they were before the accident. Sprains and strains can limit people’s ability to carry on their daily lives, in people who are not able to fully heal from their injuries.