Have you ever suffered from the effects of whiplash, which is more properly called cervical acceleration-deceleration injury? Whiplash usually occurs as a result of sudden movement of the neck, back-and-forth, side-to-side, or in any direction that causes damage to the vertebrae of the neck and nearby muscles, discs, tendons, ligaments and other tissues.
The good news is that even if you have suffered from a severe case of whiplash, chiropractic care can help alleviate some or all of the problems associated with this serious condition. It’s a good idea to learn the basics of whiplash, like what it is, what its symptoms are, how it usually occurs, and what the specific chiropractic treatments are.
Whether you are young or old, in good or not so good health, you can suffer a whiplash injury. In fact, if you’re ever in a minor vehicle accident, even at a very slow rate of speed, you’re in danger of getting a whiplash injury. As with many other medical conditions, whiplash problems range from minor to severe. Some require hospitalization, but most can be treated on an outpatient basis by a licensed chiropractic physician.
Acquaint yourself with the basic definitions and facts about whiplash, its symptoms, and the most common ways your chiropractor can treat this serious neck condition.
What is Whiplash and What are its Symptoms?
Whenever your neck flexes and extends too far, and does so very quickly, you’re susceptible to a whiplash injury. The neck’s ligaments and tendons become so stressed by the fast movement that they end up being damaged. Then, they’re unable to hold the vertebrae in proper alignment. The painful result is that individual vertebrae are able to change position and thus exert pressure on various spinal nerves. Because these nerves control all segments of the body, it’s possible that even a minor whiplash injury can lead to problems in the legs, arms, hands, torso, and of course the neck.
How do the most common injuries occur? Most of our whiplash patients have been in car accidents and suffered from violent front-and-back or side-to-side neck thrusting due to sudden stops at any speed. Even a sudden stop in a car that’s traveling only 5 mph can cause whiplash. Other common causes include various contact sports like football, boxing, wrestling, and martial arts. Perhaps you’ve read stories on local or national news sites about people being injured on rides at amusement parks. Most of those cases involve whiplash injuries. Note that if you already suffer from arthritis or osteoporosis, it’s much easier to get a whiplash injury.
Whiplash symptoms vary greatly, both in the way they appear, how long they take to appear, and how severe they are. However, it’s possible to list some of the typical symptoms, which could appear as one or more of the following:
- Vision problems ranging from blurred sight to impaired sight
- Light to extreme fatigue
- Muscular spasms in any part of the body but particularly the neck
- Intermittent or constant hearing impairment, including “ringing” sounds
- Arm, neck, leg, hand, or back pain or stiffness, ranging from mild to severe
- Vertigo or partial dizziness
- Numbness in any part of the body or a feeling as if a limb or body part has “gone to sleep”
- Trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep
- Problems with neck mobility or decreased range of motion in the neck
How Do Chiropractic Physicians Treat Whiplash?
In one sense, it’s not really possible to say how a chiropractor will treat your whiplash injury. That’s because each person is different, and every whiplash injury is different. While there are many ways to treat injuries, a chiropractor will choose one or more forms of treatment based on severity, when the injury occurred, the medical history of the patient, and other factors. However, it is possible to look at four of the most common treatment methods. Keep in mind that if you suffer a whiplash injury, your own treatment and rehabilitation program will be designed specifically for your situation.
Four of the most prevalent chiropractic treatment techniques for whiplash include the following:
- Exercise regimens: Some of the most common are called “McKenzie exercises,” which work to rearrange the discs and which your chiropractor can teach you to do on your own at home. There are also various exercises that help stabilize your movement patterns in day-to-day activities like washing, eating, walking, and driving. Other exercises work to stabilize the neck by retraining muscles in the spinal area.
- Stimulation or relaxation of certain muscles, or a combination of stimulation and relaxation: This is one of the more common forms of treatment for whiplash. It consists of the physician stretching or contracting the specific muscles that are at the root of the problem. Sometimes the chiropractor will employ finger pressure on some of the muscular trigger points in order to minimize or alleviate pain.
- Manipulation: When your chiropractor slowly and carefully moves the affected joint towards its area of restriction, you’re experiencing manipulation treatment. This spinal manipulation, also called a chiropractic adjustment, can take the form of a quick thrusting motion or, alternately, a very slow and deliberative movement to mobilize the affected area.
- Changes in your lifestyle: The chiropractor can show a patient how to perform routine tasks, like eating or standing up from a seated position, with the least amount of strain on the body.
Getting Treatment for Whiplash
It’s essential for your long-term health and wellness to get treatment for any suspected whiplash injury as soon as possible. The chiropractic team of physicians at Spinal Health and Wellness notes that many cases of whiplash are “invisible.” In other words, after a minor car accident, even a “fender-bender” in which no one seeks medical treatment, a serious case of whiplash can appear days or weeks later.
Like many viral infections, back injuries, and some forms of cancer, the serious symptoms of whiplash might not appear for quite a long time. It’s possible for someone to be involved in a very minor car accident, for example, and be fine for several weeks. Eventually, if a whiplash injury took place in the accident, the full effects could show up, causing severe pain, the inability to freely move the head or neck, or other debilitating symptoms.
If you even suspect that you have experienced a whiplash injury, the time to get checked out is now. The team at Spinal Health and Wellness can perform a thorough exam to determine if you are a whiplash victim. Not only can our chiropractors diagnose the condition, but they can also begin treating you even before you develop symptoms. This can make good sense from a legal perspective, as you might need to file an insurance claim due to a vehicular injury as quickly as possible.
Feel free to contact our offices at Spinal Health and Wellness for an appointment and general whiplash exam. That way, you’ll have the peace of mind in knowing that you are taking care of your health and working to stave off the worst effects of this dangerous condition sooner rather than later.