Approximately 3 million Americans experience a whiplash injury every year. Of those unlucky people, over a million of them will suffer from chronic pain because of their whiplash injury.
When does Whiplash Occur?
Advances in car safety devices like seat belts, head restraints, and airbags have made it much more likely to survive a car accident. However, it is very difficult to prevent injuries from occurring when 2 (or more) 2,000-pound vehicles collide. While whiplash usually occurs during front or rear-impact car accidents, you can experience one of these injuries at any time. It can be from something as simple as a slip and fall or participating in sports like football, horseback riding, snowboarding, or gymnastics.
A whiplash injury occurs when someone experiences a forceful over extension of the neck and then rapid flexion, like a whip. Unfortunately, whiplash injuries can occur at speeds of less than 12 miles per hour.
While whiplash injuries don’t typically show any outward signs like bruising, that doesn’t mean they aren’t serious. The effects of a whiplash injury (also called an “acceleration / deceleration injury”) can last for months or even years. In fact, as many as 300,000 whiplash victims will experience disabling pain from their injuries.
Whiplash injuries can damage many of the tissues in the spine (especially the neck), including joints, discs, ligaments, muscles, and even the nerve roots.
What are the symptoms of Whiplash?
While symptoms like neck pain and stiffness often occur immediately after an accident, others can take several days to surface.
Other symptoms of Whiplash can include:
Radiating symptoms like aching, burning, numbness, or tingling into the shoulders, arms, or hands
Shoulder or back pain
Mood changes including nervousness, irritability, or even depression
What Should You Do If You Think You Have Whiplash?
Whiplash injuries can worsen without treatment. In fact, getting evaluated as soon as possible by a healthcare provider that specializes in these types of injuries is very important. Injuries to connective tissue like ligaments, tendons, and capsules (which hold the spine together) are easily injured and require immediate treatment to prevent chronic problems. The neck is especially susceptible to injury as the lap and shoulder harnesses in cars and trucks protect the neck.
Whiplash Treatment and Recovery
During the first 24 hours after your accident, using cold therapy like ice or a cold gel pack can help relieve pain and reduce swelling. The following are other commonly recommended treatments for whiplash:
A cervical collar for neck support
Range of motion exercises
While the exact circumstances of every person’s whiplash injury is different, there are some common treatments that work well to address whiplash injuries.
Chiropractic Adjustments (aka Manipulation)
Muscle relaxation and/or stimulation
Low level laser therapy
Chiropractic Adjustments for Whiplash
The primary whiplash treatment chiropractors provide for whiplash is chiropractic adjustment. This involves gently moving the injured joints in the spine by applying pressure to the vertebra. The pressure applied (called a thrust) mobilizes the joint, relieving inflammation, reducing muscle spasms, and relieving pain. Most importantly, by restoring motion to the injured area, the body can heal more quickly and is less likely to develop scar tissue that can cause chronic pain.
If the muscles are tight or spasmed, other treatments can be used to provide relief. These include electric muscle stimulation, cold laser, stretching, and soft tissue work that helps break up scar tissue that forms after an injury.
If you’ve been in a car accident, be sure to choose an experienced whiplash doctor to evaluate your injuries, and DON’T ignore the early signs of a whiplash injury.