Every year in the United States, close to 2 million of us will suffer from some form of whiplash injury. Many who endure this type of trauma find relief from quality Chiropractic care. In these cases, a Chiropractor can treat the patient for the short-term pain and other side effects resulting from the injury as well as the more persistent side effects that tend to extend over longer periods of time. There are many Chiropractic treatments that specifically benefit whiplash patients; before elaborating on those treatments, let’s first explore what happens when someone is injured by whiplash.
The first thing to know about whiplash is that this term is not medically correct, however, you’ve likely heard this word before and know the essence of what it means. Typically, whiplash describes a strain or sprain injury affecting the neck’s softer tissues, especially the ligaments. Whiplash happens when a sudden movement involving acceleration and deceleration is initiated within the cervical spine (a fancy, medical term for the neck).
What happens in this instance is that the neck is forced to move and stretch beyond the range it typically does; so the neck will rapidly extend backward and then flex forward past what is considered a normal range of motion for this vulnerable area of the body. The spine of the neck will be injured after that type of trauma due to an excess of force that is overloaded onto the cervical spine. Many whiplash injuries involve a tearing of the muscle and ligament fibers in the neck. For the most part, this injury affects the muscles and ligaments connected throughout the neck and possibly the back. However, whiplash can also describe trauma to the intervertebral discs, nerve roots, and joints. The harm and damage from whiplash injuries can be very minor, like a sprain that is easily healed and can also range all the way to quite severe.
The initial injury caused by a whiplash-inducing accident can be traumatic enough, but further complications tend to arise from this first ligament and/or muscle tear. Post-injury, the muscles surrounding the affected area will spasm and contract in order to reinforce and stabilize the torn area, forming a sort of splint or make-shift soft collar. The body does its best to keep the neck still, thus preventing further movement and subsequent injury. Although these spasms are a measure of protection, they have unfortunate side effects. Inflammation, loss of motion range, stiffness, and chronic pain are the likely “friends” that will try to stick around with the injured party following whiplash.
Typically, when someone hears about whiplash they assume this occurred in a car accident. However, this kind of neck injury can happen because of a fall, a sports-related collision or accident, or can even be sustained during a recreational activity such as falling off a horse. Some common whiplash-inducing sports include football, basketball, boxing, and hockey.
So what are the symptoms of whiplash? Below are some symptoms that you would likely experience if you had experienced a fall or collision resulting in whiplash to your cervical spine:
- A headache
- Back pain
- Shoulder pain
- Stiffness of neck
- Vision problems or changes
- A strange feeling in your neck, arms, and hands including burning, numbness, tingling, or pins and needles.
It may seem like a whiplash injury would be obvious and easy to self-diagnose based on these symptoms, however, that’s not the case. Sadly, many who fall victim to a whiplash injury fail to visit a doctor or provider about their injury due to the fact that they often don’t feel pain during the impact or immediately following their accident. Unfortunately, neck strains and sprains often take some time before manifesting their presence. In the event of a severe injury or trauma to the cervical spine, it’s more likely for symptoms to present right away or at least within a matter of hours. However, when milder injuries occur, the affected party may have to wait weeks or months before experiencing symptoms.