What is whiplash?
Whiplash is one of the most common injuries from auto accidents. This happens when impact - either from a front or rear-end collision - throws the head violently in one direction beyond its normal limits, then muscles react to "whip" it back in the opposite direction. Muscles, tendons and ligaments supporting the spine can be overstretched or torn. The spinal cord and delicate nerve endings in the neck can be stretched, pinched and irritated. The soft, cartilage-like discs occupying the spaces between spinal bones can tear, bulge, herniate or even rupture.
The initial symptoms of whiplash may be a sore or stiff nec, perhaps along with a headache within a few hours of the accident. Pain or numbness, or a pins-and-needles tingling in the back, arms, shoulders and hands may occur. A reduced ability to turn and bend freely is common. Ringing in the ears, dizziness, hearing loss, or blurred vision have also been reported. Some symptoms may not appear until days or even weeks after the accident.
In severe whiplash, a concussion may also occur when the brain is violently slammed against the inside of the skull. Concussion symptoms include: headache, irritability, restlessness, insomnia, depression and mood-swings that may last for hours or even days after the accident.
A chiropractic checkup can tell you the extent of the spinal injury and provide care to realign the spinal column.
Why whiplash may not be a minor injury
Fortunately, whiplash injuries seldom require hospitalization. After some initial pain and a few days of stiffness, it's all behind you. Or perhaps not. Even when the damage to your car is relatively minor, whiplash may have caused spinal damage. All too frequently, life-long health problems begin as a whiplash injury that was dismissed as minor at the time.
Any trauma to your spine - whiplash included - can disturb the normal position and motion of the vertebrae. Muscles, ligaments, and discs atached to the spine are affected. In turn, neural messages going from the brain to other parts of the body "mis-fire," interfering with your body's ability to heal and function normally. These are what doctors call "vertebral subluxations" and they may go undetected for years, silently destroying your natural good health.
Medical doctors are trained to treat life-threatening emergencies; bleeding, shock, broken bones, damaged organ function, contusions or abrasions. However they are not trained to recognize the hidden spinal damage leading to the vertebral subluxation complex. Only your Doctor of Chiropractic is trained to do this. That's why many people when they leave the emergency room go home with a hidden health problem that will only grow worse over time. Many health conditions seemingly unrelated to "back problems" can often be traced back to nervous system impairment involving the spine.
Don't wait to seek help
A "wait and see" approach to dealing with spinal injuries can be dangerous. Most problems are more easily treated within the first month symptoms are noticed. Consult your Doctor of Chiropractic to have a spinal checkup whenever you have suffered a whiplash injury. No matter how minor the accident, spinal damage should be ruled out to protect your long-term health.
Assessing your injury
A complete health history combined with a thorough examination is the first step. You will be asked to describe what happened to cause your injury. You'll also be asked to bend and turn, and your reflexes will be tested. Other standard chiropractic tests also may be performed. X-rays of your spine will be taken. Your doctor will review this information and answer any questions you may have. Then the doctor will make recommendations for a program of care suited to your whiplash injury.
What you can do
In the beginning, frequent chiropractic visits may be needed to help relieve your symptoms. It's not unusual to enjoy some degree of relief immediately after your first adjustment. However, severe problems can't be cured with a single adjustment, any more than a single pill in a prescription can cure an illness. So be patient. Give your treatment program time to work and yourself time to heal.
Make a commitment to your own recovery by following your doctor's prescribed treatment program. Most important of all, keep all of your scheduled appointments. Even after your symptoms ease, regular treatment is needed for more complete healing. Discontinuing treatment prematurely only delays and prevents full recovery.