Discover more about whiplash and how chiropractic care can help.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is the common term for "cervical acceleration-deceleration injury." This refers to damage done to the muscles, ligaments, tendons, discs, nerves and vertebrae of the neck as the result of sudden hyperextension and hyperflexion of the neck. When a patient experiences a sudden force that moves the neck forcefully backward then forward, the ligaments and tendons that hold the vertebrae in correct alignment are damaged, causing the vertebrae to change their position and irritate the adjacent nerve roots. This in turn can cause impairment of the function of the body parts that are controlled by these nerves.
How does Whiplash Occur?
Whiplash is a very common condition and is most often associated with car accidents, but can be caused by a variety of different activities such as contact sports, amusement park rides or head-banging to heavy metal music. There are a variety of factors that can predispose a person to a whiplash injury, such as vertebral subluxations, osteoporosis, arthritis, as well as prior whiplash injures.
There is some controversy surrounding how much force is needed to cause a whiplash injury, however it has been documented that a car accident occurring at 5 mph can pack enough force to cause one.
What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of a whiplash injury can vary greatly in terms of onset and severity, but some common symptoms associated with it are the following:
- A loss or reduction in ability to move the neck
- Neck stiffness and pain
- Pain in arms and hands
- Muscle spasm
- Dizziness and/or vertigo
- Blurred or altered vision
- Ringing in ears
- Sleep disturbances
- Numbness/pins and needles in arms and hands
Remember: Symptoms may appear immediately after the whiplash injury or there may be a delayed onset of symptoms, which can prevent a person from associating the symptoms with an injury. This often postpones the patient from receiving timely treatment.
What Should I Do if I Think I Have Whiplash?
If you suspect you've experienced a whiplash injury, either recently or several months or years ago, the most important thing to do is to be examined and diagnosed by a reputable healthcare provider experienced in whiplash injuries, and be prescribed an appropriate treatment plan. Research studies have shown that chiropractic care is effective in treating acute whiplash injuries and preventing the patient's symptoms from becoming chronic and minimizing disability.
What are the Long-Term Effects of Untreated Whiplash?
Patients who have a whiplash injury treated immediately suffer significantly less long-term effects than those who delay treatment or receive no treatment at all. Long-term effects of untreated whiplash are chronic pain and loss of function, permanent damage to the vertebrae and nervous system, as well as accelerated degeneration of the cervical spine. This is why visiting the chiropractor for proper diagnosis and treatment is vitally important to the immediate and long-term health of the patient.
Special thanks to Dr. Daniel Schultz, D.C., Chiropractic Director of Chiro One Wellness Center of North Aurora for contributing this post.
Read on to learn more:
Chiropractic treatment of chronic 'whiplash' injuries (Abstract), Injury, 1996
Whiplash, American Chiropractic Association, accessed 2015
An evaluation of the effect of chiropractic manipulative therapy on hypolordosis of the cervical spine (Abstract), Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 1983
Treatment of Whiplash-Associated Disorders – Part I: Noninvasive Interventions, Pain Research and Management, 2005
Chronic neck pain and whiplash: A case-control study of the relationship between acute whiplash injuries and chronic neck pain, Pain Research and Management, 2006