Relief From Whiplash
Of the millions of people who visit doctors of chiropractic each year, a large number have had whiplash injuries. Whiplash injuries occur when a person’s spine, usually their neck, was hurt by being unexpectedly or suddenly thrown very quickly in one direction and then in the opposite direction. You might say the head is “whipped around” on the neck.
Whiplash is one of the most common consequences of auto accidents; it is estimated that 15% -30% of car occupants will suffer neck pain.
In almost all whiplash-type injuries the spine is thrown first in one direction and then is pulled in the opposite direction2 because the muscles react to the initial injury by pulling or rebounding in the opposite direction. The rebound can and often does cause injury to your soft tissues – muscles, ligaments, tendons and other tissues. Occasionally a whiplash injury can result from side to side motion of the neck, also called left and right lateral hyperflexion.
There is more to whiplash than being thrown forward and backward. Usually the head is turned to the right or left a little when an accident occurs and this can complicate the effects of the injury.
Whiplash can be mild to severe and can range from rapid healing to slow healing to long-term chronic pain and impairment. It can cause serious problems because it can cause long-term damage. Studies show that a large percentage of whiplash sufferers, from 50%5 to as much as 80%6 may continue to suffer pain and some amount of disability for years after the accident.
SPINAL CORD DAMAGE
Depending on the severity of the accident, whiplash damage can range from barely noticeable stiffness to death. A worst case scenario occurs in a small minority of cases where there is actual bone fracture and spinal cord damage causing paralysis and death.
Whiplash symptoms may start as neck soreness or stiffness, perhaps accompanied by a headache immediately or within a few hours of the accident. Along with these symptoms there may be pain and/or numbness, tingling, or a pins-and-needles feeling between the shoulder blades, arm and hand.
Some people may experience ear ringing, dizziness, or even hearing loss. Sometimes the eyes can be affected and there may be pain behind the eyeballs, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, or other visual symptoms. Occasionally, there may be tearing or running of the nose.
POST CONCUSSION SYNDROME
A concussion may accompany a whiplash. It occurs from a violent shaking of the head where the brain is thrown around against the skull – similar to scrambling an egg without damaging the shell, Concussion symptoms may include headache, restlessness, irritability, insomnia, moodiness, depression and emotional litters’ that may last for hours or days after the accident. This grouping of symptoms is now being called Post concussion Syndrome (PCS).
An individual who has been in an accident should first make sure that there is no life-threatening emergency – broken bones, bleeding or hemorrhage, internal organ damage, serious contusions or abrasions, shock and other damage. This is the specialty of emergency medicine, which does its best work when dealing with trauma or accidental injury. After the patient is out of immediate danger and when it is safe to do so, their spine desperately needs to be checked by a doctor of chiropractic for life-threatening spinal damage, called the vertebral subluxation complex.
That is essential because many whiplash sufferers live in pain for years after the injury, forced to survive on painkillers, muscle relaxants and various therapies including surgery because the spinal damage a doctor of chiropractic can correct has not been eliminated. In many cases a visit to the chiropractor may give great relief safely, quickly and without drugs or surgery.
Not only whiplash but any kind of accident may cause the vertebral subluxation complex where the vertebrae (spinal bones) are out of proper alignment and “impinging” or irritating spinal nerves.10 Painkillers, muscle relaxers, sedatives, or physical therapy cannot re-align the vertebrae and relieve the nervous system from pressure. What is needed is chiropractic care (spinal adjustment) to realign the spinal column.