Have you ever been in a collision? I asked this question to my patient with tongue in cheek. This was after I looked at the X-rays of his neck.

He was a former NHL player and hockey coach. He’s still in great shape and takes excellent care of himself.

Yes, he answered. I remember two big hits. I was shocked, not hundreds?

As I watch the Boston Bruins play for the Stanley Cup, the game is fast and physical. Most of those hits are just a day at the office for the players. That’s why they can play almost 100 games a year to win the Cup.

His chief complaint was chronic neck pain. The pain also radiated into his arm, causing tingling into his hand. It was hampering his sleep. His hands were numb in the morning. Driving, and sitting at the computer, aggravated his neck and arm pain.

His X-rays showed early degeneration of his discs between the vertebrae. He was also developing osteoarthritis of the joints. His neck was very straight. It had lost the forward curve of a normal neck.

I did a physical examination of his neck. He had lost range of motion. He was restricted on rotating his head to the left, and flexion and extension. Palpation revealed muscle spasm in the neck to the trapezius.

I evaluated him for a pinch nerve. His reflexes and sensation were normal. I did find a weakness of the triceps muscle and grip strength.

These are the findings commonly associated with a whiplash injury. A whiplash type injury is commonly associated with car accidents. These same whiplash types of injuries can occur in sports.

The neck is long and relatively thin. It holds an 8- to 14-pound object on top of it. It is designed to be mobile. Your neck is exposed to injuries.

Whiplash is described as the acceleration deceleration event. The head is violently snapped in one direction, then the other. This causes a tearing of the soft tissues supporting structures, the ligaments, tendons and muscles of the neck.

I explained to him the degeneration in his neck is a result of old injuries. This is the result of chronic loss of motion and scar tissue. When the joint and disc losses motion, arthritis and degeneration form.

Spurs also can start to grow. When you see this on X-rays, the body is trying to stabilize the area. It is a natural fusion of the joint.

My diagnosis was a chronic whiplash type injury resulting in degenerative changes in the spine. He also had a pinched nerve in his neck. That was the reason for the pain into his arms.

I was concerned about the degeneration in his neck. He’s relatively young and I didn’t want this to progress.

My treatment plan was twofold. First, reduce his pain and numbness to make him comfortable so he can sleep. Second, establish a plan to stabilize his neck to stop further degeneration.

I used specific spinal adjustments to the vertebrae of his neck and upper back. This will restore motion to the joints and discs.

Ultrasound and electrical stimulation was applied to reduce muscle spasm.

I prescribed a bed pillow specifically designed to restore the lost curve in his neck. He was given exercises that will improve his range of motion.

He responded great and now sleeps without issues.

If you injure your neck, make sure you treat it early to avoid the chances of a chronic condition developing.

Dr. Robert Lynch is a former president of the Maine Chiropractic Association and head of the Lynch Chiropractic Center in South Portland. “Staying in the Game” appears every other Thursday in the Press Herald. Contact him at: drlynch@drlynch.com