On a daily basis in my chiropractic office in Springfield, VA, it seems we have a new patient that is suffering from a whiplash injury from a motor vehicle accident. With so much congestion in the Washington, DC area and with everyone in such a hurry and often distracted from cell phones and blackberrys, car accidents are very common. Research has shown that even a 5 mph car accident can cause whiplash even if there is no damage to the vehicles. My point of this blog entry is to educate you about whiplash injuries.
What Is It? Whiplash is an injury to the soft tissues in the neck including ligaments, joint capsules, muscles and their tendons, and intervertebral disks. It can also involve the nervous system tissues in more severe cases, resulting in radiating arm pain.
How does it happen? During a car crash, most commonly a rear-end collision. The sudden jolt occurs so fast we cannot brace ourselves adequately and the head accelerates back and forth beyond the limits of the ligaments that hold our bones firmly together (often referred to as a “sprain”). Because of the significant range of motion of the neck, the weight of the head, and how is suspended on the neck, the neck is particularly vulnerable to this type of injury (more commonly worse in woman due to a more slender neck).
What are the symptoms? The primary symptom is neck or upper back pain that may develop immediately or be delayed days, weeks, and sometimes months. A partial list of possible symptoms (each injured person’s symptoms are different) include: muscles spasms, loss of movement, headache, dizziness, concentration &/or memory loss, difficulty swallowing, chewing &/or hoarseness, burning or tingling, shoulder/arm/hand radiating pain, and more.
How is it diagnosed? Even when symptoms do not seem significant, a health care provider can diagnose the condition by taking a careful history and performing a physical exam. X-rays showing a change in the curvature or contour of the neck, &/or MRI or CT scan to better assess the disk and nerve roots when pain radiates down an arm may also be indicated. When persistent concentration/memory loss is present, a consult by a neuropsychologist is helpful.
How is it treated? In most cases, non-surgical methods are usually appropriate. Chiropractic care includes spinal adjustments to restore joint mobility and reduce pain, Active Release Techniques and Graston Technique to the injury muscles, ligaments and tendons, spinal decompression if a disc injury is determined, physical therapy modalities including electric muscle stimulation, ultrasound, and rehabilitation exercises for injury area.
How can it be prevented? The degree of severity of whiplash can be decreased or maybe avoided completely with the following: the use of seatbelts (especially in high speed collisions), placing the headrest close to the head (< 1 inch) and high enough to avoid “ramping” over it. Placing the seat back more vertical/upright can minimize ramping. Do not partake in distractive activities while driving – cell phone use, adjusting the radio, taking your eyes off the road (eye contact during conversation), dosing off, reading a book (this is more common than you think!), and others. Bracing yourself has not been shown to be very helpful – whiplash happens too quickly to voluntarily brace your neck muscles. For athletes, wear appropriate protective gear when engaging in sporting activities and use proper form / technique during the athletic activity.
Important to know! Chiropractors have a unique advantage over other health care providers as spinal manipulation and other manual therapies have been shown to yield the highest levels of satisfaction and faster recovery rates compared to other forms of health care. If you, a loved one, or a friend is struggling with whiplash from a motor vehicle collision, you can depend on receiving a multi-disciplinary assessment and therapeutic approach at our chiropractic office in Springfield, VA. Call us today at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at www.NovaChiroWellness.com.