Motorists involved in a rear-end crashes commonly experience whiplash injuries to the neck. These injuries occur as the torso accelerates forward and the neck extends backwards, then suddenly the head whips forward.
Whiplash is an injury to the ligaments and tendons in the neck when there is a shearing force forwards, backwards or sideways to the spine, often as the result of a car crash. After an accident, the symptoms of a whiplash injury may not be felt until around 6-12 hours later and may become worse over the following days. Whiplash injury symptoms include neck pain, stiffness, tenderness, reduced neck movement and headache. Whiplash injuries account for more than three quarters of all injury claims after road accidents.
What causes whiplash?
Automobile collisions, blows to the head particularly during sports such as boxing or rugby, or a slips and falls that cause the head to suddenly jolt backwards/forwards, can result in whiplash injuries.
What are the symptoms of whiplash?
Symptoms of a whiplash injury may be delayed for 24 hours or more after the initial trauma. However, people who experience a whiplash injury may develop one or more of the following symptoms, usually within the first few days after the injury:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Headaches / Pain in the jaw or face
- Pain in the shoulder or between the shoulder blades
- Lower back pain and stiffness
- Pain or numbness and tingling in the arm and/or hand
- Dizziness and/or Vertigo
- Ringing in the ears or blurred vision
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering, difficulty swallowing
- Irritability, sleep disturbances, fatigue
- Blurred Vision
Why do these symptoms occur?
The muscles and ligaments supporting the spine can be over-stretched or torn. The discs between the vertebrae can bulge, tear or rupture. Vertebrae can be forced out of their normal position, reducing range of motion. The spinal cord and nerve roots get stretched, irritated or choked.
One problem with whiplash is that the symptoms can take years to develop and too often people do not seek treatment until more complications develop. Even after whiplash victims settle their insurance claims, some 45% report they still suffer with symptoms two years later.
If you experience any of these symptoms, play it safe and book a chiropractic check-up. Remember, even if you feel normal after an accident, with no symptoms, you should be thoroughly examined.
Current research say that manual therapy and exercise that focus on regaining function, is more effective than other types of treatments. Especially if the treatment is started as early as possible. So, 'wait and see' and taking painkillers is not the best way to move forward if you want to get rid of your pain!
Our Chiropractors will evaluate your spine as a whole—even if your main complaint is neck pain following a trauma. They will examine the entire spine because other regions of the spine may be affected (not just your neck).
They identify any areas of restricted joint motion, intervertebral disc injury, muscle spasm, and ligament injury. They may use a technique called motion and static palpation—diagnostic techniques that involve touch. They will also feel for tenderness, tightness, and how well your spinal joints move.
The Doctors will also analyze how you walk, and will look at your posture and spinal alignment. These details will help the them understand your body mechanics and how your spine works, helping with the diagnosis process.
In addition to the evaluation of your spine,they may order an x-ray or an MRI of your spine to evaluate any degenerative changes that may have existed before your whiplash injury.
After the examination, they will be better able to diagnose your condition accurately, helping to create a treatment plan specific to your injuries.
Stages of Whiplash Treatment
Soon after whiplash occurs—in the acute phase—we will work on reducing inflammation and the intensity/frequency of your pain. The Doctors will use gentle stretching and manual therapy techniques. They may also recommend you apply an ice pack on your neck and/or a light neck support to use for a short period of time.
As your neck becomes less inflamed and the pain becomes less intense, they will use gentle spinal manipulation or other techniques to restore normal motion to the spinal joints of the neck.
Chiropractic Treatments for Whiplash
Your treatment plan depends on the severity of your whiplash injury.
The most common chiropractic technique is spinal manipulation. Some spinal manipulation techniques commonly used are:
Specific Spinal Manipulation: The Doctors will identify spinal joints that are restricted or show abnormal motion (called subluxations). Using this technique, they will help restore motion to the joint with a gentle thrusting technique. This gentle thrusting stretches soft tissue and stimulates the nervous system to restore normal motion to the spine. This normal motion in the joints is critical for proper healing.
Instrument-Assisted Manipulation: This technique is a non-thrusting technique we sometimes use. Using a specialized hand-held instrument, the Doctor will apply gentle force without thrusting into the spine. This type of manipulation is useful for older patients who have a degenerative joint syndrome or for patients with severe whiplash.
In addition to spinal manipulation, the Doctors may also use manual therapy to treat injured soft tissues (e.g. ligaments and muscles) or refer you for Massage therapy and/or Physical Therapy.
How Does a Chiropractor Help Treat Whiplash?
Your Chiropractor looks at the whole person—not just the painful problem. They view neck pain as unique to each patient, so they don’t just focus on your neck pain. They will emphasize prevention as the key to long-term health. In addition to these treatments, they may also prescribe therapeutic exercises to help restore normal motion in your spine and reduce whiplash symptoms.
Using these chiropractic techniques, our Doctors will help assist in your recovery and improve the return to your daily activities. They will work hard to address any mechanical (how the spine moves) or neurological (nerve-related) causes as a result of your whiplash injury.