One of the most common injuries from an auto accident is the damaging effects of whiplash. Whiplash is a sudden jolt that causes the head to be abruptly thrown back and sideways. Even a car accident that is seemingly minor with low speed impact can cause serious injury to the driver and passengers. Whiplash can occur at speeds of fifteen miles per hour or less.
What are the most common signs and symptoms of whiplash?
Symptoms can appear directly after the injury, but are often not felt for days afterwards. The most common symptoms of whiplash are pain and stiffness of the neck but you may also experience blurred vision, headaches, dizziness, shoulder pain, reduced range of motion in the neck, arm pain, and low back pain.
When Should I seek treatment for my injuries?
It is critical that chiropractic care be sought immediately after an automobile accident. The human body will attempt to immobilize injured areas following trauma. This usually begins with "protective" muscle spasm. If function is not restored with in 4-8 weeks, then scar tissue will be laid down at the site of injury hindering the return to full function. This will eventually lead to increased bone growth with the joint causing joint degeneration. All of this, however, can occur with little to no pain.
Soon after whiplash occurs, in the acute phase, the chiropractor will work on reducing neck inflammation using various modalities (ex. ultrasound). The doctor may also use gentle stretching and manual therapies.
The doctor may also recommend you apply an ice pack on your neck and/or a light neck support to use for a short period of time.
As your neck becomes less inflamed and the pain becomes less intense, your chiropractor will use gentle spinal manipulation or other techniques to restore normal motion to the spinal joints of the neck.
A study in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery stated that "...an individual involved in a motor vehicle accident is nearly 7-times more likely to suffer neck degeneration within 7-years of the accident..." than individuals that have not been involved in an auto accident.
The goal of chiropractic care is to return the injured joints, muscles and nerves to complete, healthy function thereby reducing this increased risk of degeneration.