Have you ever been in a car accident? During the average lifetime, there is a very good chance that you or someone you know will experience such an unfortunate event. Statistics show that during their lifetime, one in four people will have a car accident. After a collision with a fender, whether you’re the driver or the passenger, you can take a pain reliever or two and maybe do some physical therapy. Then when you feel better, you may never think about it again. But what if the symptoms persist? Or, worse yet, if you have no symptoms, can an accident come back to haunt you?
What is whiplash”?
The nonmedical term whiplash was first used in 1928. Although more precise terms, such as flexion and extension acceleration neck injury or soft tissue cervical hyperextension injury, have sometimes replaced it, “whiplash” continues to be used. commonly for this type of soft tissue. neck injury Dr. Arthur Croft, a specialist in whiplash injuries, estimates that up to 3 million whiplash injuries occur each year in the United States, and that one in three people will suffer from the condition.
Whiplash injury is a sudden strain or trauma that affects the bones, discs, muscles, ligaments, nerves, and tendons of the neck, an area of the body that involves seven vertebrae and is known as the cervical region. Harmful forward and backward or even sideways jerking of the head and neck is caused not only by car accidents, but also by contact sports, various amusement park rides, falls, and assaults. Statistically, motor vehicle collisions, contact sports, and amusement park rides are the top three causes.
Various symptoms are associated with whiplash injury, including but not limited to neck and back pain, nausea, numbness, weakness, fatigue, dizziness, vertigo (loss of balance), swelling, hearing impairment, headaches, visual disturbances , fracture and paralysis. Occasionally, there are no symptoms initially, only appearing days, weeks, or even years after the injury. The consequences of whiplash range from mild pain for a few days (the most common outcome) to severe disability caused by restricted movement of the head or cervical spine, sometimes with persistent pain. Between 40% and 50% of people with whiplash injuries are likely to experience permanent pain.
Treatment of the injury
After an accident, it’s important to get checked out right away, either at an emergency room or with your chiropractor. As long as a fracture has not occurred, a chiropractor can perform an exam that begins with taking a detailed history, followed by orthopedic and neurological tests, a range of motion test, postural control and palpation, and x-rays to see the extent. of damage or change. in the spine. The neck should be perfectly straight on an x-ray, and your chiropractor will be able to identify any misalignment (subluxation). In a side view, the neck should show the arc of a circle. Loss of cervical curve, which is common in physical impact, can cause any of the whiplash symptoms listed above.
Treatment for whiplash includes passive and active exercises, gentle massage, chiropractic, therapeutic massage, spinal and extremity adjustments, as well as therapies such as traction to correct spinal posture, electrical stimulation to relax muscle spasms, stretching and ice. Applying ice immediately after most whiplash injuries helps reduce inflammation and swelling. Each application should be maintained for 10 to 20 minutes every hour. After 24 hours, it is recommended to alternate between ice and heat, up to 20 minutes per treatment. The ice or ice pack should be wrapped in a towel before use. To sleep, the patient can roll up a towel and place it under the neck while lying on the back so that the back of the skull rests on the bed, a position that promotes healing of the injury.
Many studies have shown that chiropractic and acupuncture are more effective than medications in treating injuries sustained in car accidents. According to the Insurance Research Council, “nearly a third of all claimants injured in motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) seek treatment from chiropractic physicians.” This is an impressive number considering that the National Safety Council (NSC) has determined that there are more than 12 million MVAs a year involving more than 20 million vehicles.
In a related study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers showed that “treatment of facet joints [which link the bones in the spine] not only relieved severe neck pain, but also resolved psychological distress associated with car accidents.” According to another study published in the book by Dr. Stephen Foreman and Dr. Arthur Croft, Whiplash Injuries: The Cervical Acceleration/Deceleration Syndrome, 3rd Edition (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2001), a recent comparison of medicine, acupuncture, and chiropractic care in a randomized trial reported that “comparison of medications (Celebrex, Vioxx, or acetaminophen [acetaminophen]) to acupuncture and spinal manipulation over 9 weeks in people with chronic spinal pain (including neck to low back pain), the authors demonstrated a fairly profound superiority for chiropractic spinal manipulation.”
Many people choose chiropractic care for treatment because of its advantage in improving soft tissue (ie, ligament, muscle, tissue) injuries, especially of the spine. Since injuries associated with car accidents are usually sprains and strains of the spinal muscles and their associated ligaments, it’s only natural that chiropractic is the treatment of choice.
Prevention of further injuries
Several proactive factors can help prevent whiplash injuries from occurring or worsening while driving. Aside from the obvious steps to avoid distractions in the first place, like not using a cell phone to call or text, using a full lap restraint system is a must. Drivers and passengers should position the head restraints in the middle of the back of the skull and try to keep their heads on the head restraints while the car is moving. Looking ahead and frequently checking rearview mirrors is also crucial for the driver.
Because some whiplash injuries have effects that last for years, if a whiplash accident occurs, immediate attention is critical. Seeking good medical and chiropractic care without delay can help prevent further injuries from developing and avoid the need for surgery.
Dr. Chad Laurence is one of fewer than 400 physicians worldwide to have been recognized as a Distinguished Fellow of Clinical Posture Biomechanics. His practice focuses on structural correction of the spine, nutrition, massage therapy, acupuncture, family care and pediatrics, as well as support after personal injuries and car accidents. Dr. Laurence can help relieve symptoms for people suffering from a variety of physical problems, including neck and lower back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, limb problems, and arthritis.