Each year approximately two million Americans suffer a whiplash injury. Chiropractic care is extremely beneficial in these cases. At Quality Chiropractic we can help assist patients with both the short and long term effects of whiplash associated injuries. Before we consider the numerous unique benefits offered by Chiropractic care in the treatment of whiplash, let’s briefly discuss what exactly a whiplash injury is.
What exactly is whiplash?
“Whiplash is a term commonly used to describe a sprain and strain injury to the soft tissues of the neck. Whiplash is considered an acceleration-deceleration type injury and occurs when the cervical spine, or neck, is abruptly forced to stretch and move beyond its normal range of motion. This typically involves the neck suddenly extending backward and then flexing forward beyond the normal range of motion. This results in an overload injury due to excessive forces being placed on the cervical spine. The initial injury is thought to be tearing of muscle and ligament fibers within the neck. Although predominantly an injury to the muscles and ligaments, whiplash may also include injury to the intervertebral joints, discs, and nerve roots. The degree of injury can range from minor to severe.
As if the initial injury were not bad enough, the body’s response post-injury can further complicate matters. After the injury muscles in and around the area respond by contracting in spasm to splint and stabilize the area. This limits movement of the head and neck and is the body’s well-intentioned effort to prevent movement and further injury. Unfortunately, this can lead to chronic pain, inflammation, stiffness, and loss of range of motion.
Whiplash is usually associated with an automobile accident, but it can occur in many other instances. Whiplash can also be caused by things such as a fall, or an impact or collision in a sporting event or recreational activity.
What are some of the symptoms of whiplash?
Headache is a frequent symptom of a cervical strain. In addition to headaches and neck pain, other symptoms of whiplash may include:
– Neck stiffness
– Shoulder pain
– Back Pain
– Changes in vision
– Abnormal sensations in the neck, hands, and arms (such as burning, pins and needles, numbness, or tingling)
Surprisingly, symptoms are not always an accurate indication of whether a patient has whiplash. Contrary to common belief, whiplash is not always obvious at the time of injury. Many victims of whiplash related injuries often do not consult with a health care provider because they do not have neck pain at or immediately near the time of the accident or injury. This is a mistake because symptoms of a cervical sprain and strain can take time to manifest themselves. The onset of symptoms is much faster in more severe injury. A severe case of whiplash injury may cause pain and symptoms immediately or within hours. In a milder case of whiplash symptoms may not occur for weeks or months.
Many victims of an automobile accident do not seek medical or chiropractic attention because their accident occurred at a low speed. There is a misconception within the public that high-speed impacts are needed to cause whiplash. This could not be further from the truth. Studies show that the soft tissues in your cervical spine have an injury threshold of 15 kilometers per hour or just under 10 mph. In other words, an impact of 10 mph or greater can theoretically cause damage to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the neck.
-study link https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3256773/
The likelihood of developing whiplash in an automobile accident depends on a multitude of factors and speed is just one variable. The position of the head and neck at the time of impact, the direction of impact, the position of vehicle headrests, whether or not a seatbelt was worn, and whether the occupants saw the impact coming are just some of the additional factors involved.
It is obvious that any impact or collision should be taken seriously. A victim of a car accident or other impact would be wise to consult with a healthcare provider as soon as possible afterward, even if no symptoms are present. At Quality Chiropractic we have treated whiplash injuries for decades and have and have proven treatment protocols to get you back to were you were before the accident.
Chiropractors receive extensive training in the normal structure and function of the cervical spine. They are also equipped to recognize and treat both the acute and long term effects of whiplash injury. There are many studies out there that back this up as well.
Chiropractic care can be of great value to a patient in the acute phase of a whiplash injury. During the acute, or early, stage of whiplash we place an emphasis on controlling and minimizing inflammation, muscle spasm, and pain. During this early phase of care a Chiropractor focuses on gentle treatment. We use special forms of therapy such as electric muscle stimulation or therapeutic ultrasound to relax muscles, decrease inflammation, and help reduce pain. We also use common therapies such as ice and cold to control swelling and inflammation and to help alleviate pain, while educating the patient on their correct use. Chiropractic adjustments are also utilized to restore proper spinal alignment and nerve function.
All patients and injuries are different, in our office, we also have cold laser therapy, dry needling, trigger point therapy, massage therapy, gentle stretching and joint mobilization techniques that all may be implemented depending on the patient.
As a whiplash injury heals, symptoms often progress from pain to stiffness and inflexibility. As you progress from the acute phase of care a we will focus on correction, flexibility, and prevention. At this point a Chiropractor may begin to utilize more intense forms of therapy. These treatment options will include things such as cervical traction to rehabilitate the cervical curve as well as stretches and strengthening exercises.
What makes Chiropractic care different from conventional medical care?
Most often conventional medical care focuses on the alleviation of pain and symptoms. This is usually done primarily through the use of drugs and medication. While getting a patient out of pain is certainly important, it is only part of the clinical picture. The long-term effects of injury, rehabilitation, and prevention of future injury are all areas that need to be addressed as well. The focus of Chiropractic care extends well beyond the treatment of pain and symptoms.
We work with patients long after pain and symptoms have decreased or subsided. In addition to symptoms, we also focus on treating posture, spinal alignment, and any abnormal spinal biomechanics. Even after a whiplash injury has healed, we continue to offer a great many benefits to the patient providing a patient with ergonomic advice, home exercises, and a stretching and strengthening program to restore normal range of motion and help prevent injury in the future.
Another benefit of Chiropractic care for whiplash patients is the fact that a Chiropractor is trained to evaluate and treat the entire body, not just the neck or spine. The spinal column is one large kinetic chain. It consists of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine. The effects of forces and impacts exerted to one area of the spine are not isolated to that area. Injury to the cervical spine can, and does, impact the shoulders to the hands, middle back, low back, and even down the legs. The ability to examine and treat the entire spine and extremities is just another unique benefit offered by a Chiropractor.
While treating a whiplash injury other issues can surface. We recognize the unique limitations and advantages of each health care profession and will refer to, and work in cooperation with, other medical providers as needed.
Whiplash type injuries are a common occurrence within American society. Research has shown Chiropractic care to be effective in the treatment of pain and the musculoskeletal effects of whiplash. We are armed with the knowledge, tools, and skills necessary to address cervical spinal dysfunction and the related effects. If you or a loved one feels they may suffer from whiplash, give us a call we are here to help.