Crashes & Whiplash
Car crashes, collisions, and minor fender benders are the major causes of whiplash. The ill effects of a whiplash injury can occur instantly or it could be weeks or months before symptoms occur. Injuries to the neck caused by a sudden movement (head forward, back, or sideways) is commonly referred to as "whiplash" or "acceleration/deceleration injuries." Literally thousands of pounds of force are exerted upon the neck and spine of the whiplash victim. These forces result in tearing of muscles, ligaments, and tendons, and in turn, can result in a displacement of the vertebrae of the spine (subluxation) which is a dysfunctional joint causing nerve irritation (pinched spinal nerves). The results of such injuries can cause neck pain, shoulder and arm pain or numbness, elbow and hand pain or numbness, mid back pain, headaches, dizziness, and blurred vision. The injured areas lose the ability to function and loss of range of motion (stiffness) occurs.
Chiropractic & Physical Rehabilitation
Chiropractic combined with physical rehabilitation is the most appropriate approach to these types of injuries. Chiropractic care utilizes specific bone mobilizations (Adjustments) to help normalize spinal function, improve range of motion, and reduce pain. This is crucial in the beginning phases of healing to bring back proper motion, but return of functional joint motion usually requires 2-3 months of chiropractic care. Physical rehab is also crucial in allowing the body to heal properly beginning about 2-4 weeks post injury and utilizes active care. Active care allows the soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, and tendons) to heal most effectively with minimal scar tissue and physical therapy can take from a few months up to a year to complete the healing process. Modalities/therapies (Passive Care) such as ice, hot packs, electrical muscle stimulation, ultrasound, traction, etc. are also utilized to compliment the different phases of the healing process while undergoing both chiropractic care and physical therapy.
The 3 Phases of Healing
There are 3 phases of healing that our bodies must undergo in any type of injury and chiropractic combined with physical therapy is the most effect approach to all soft tissue injuries. The initial phase of healing (Acute Inflammatory Phase) usually lasts 24 to 72 hours and ice (Cryotherapy) and immobilization (Neck Brace) is essential during this phase. The next phase of healing (Regeneration Phase) begins around 3 to 5 days post injury and can last up to 3-6 months. Chiropractic care combined with passive modalities is crucial to achieve maximum improvement of joint function during this phase of healing. This is when damaged tissue is replaced by new tissue (Collagen). Mobilization to the injured joints (chiropractic care) is essential to proper healing during this phase of care. The third and final phase of care (Remodeling Phase) begins about 2 to 4 weeks after the injury and can last longer than 1 year in very severe cases. Remodeling overlaps the regeneration phase of healing and this is when chiropractic and physical rehabilitation is combined. Remodeling is when new tissue (Collagen) begins and continues to strengthens. It is essential to begin exercise, stretching, and strengthening 2 to 4 weeks post injury to reduce recovery time during the remodeling phase.
Pain, Why Me?
Pain is an indicator that a problem within are bodies exists. Without pain our bodies could not tell us that there is an injury and that there is something wrong. Usually the absence of pain and swelling after injury is an exceedingly poor indicator of healing tissue. Most minor to moderate whiplash injuries are overlooked by the patient, the hospital, and even the patient's family medical provider due to the lack of initial pain. One week up to a month after the injury, the patient continues to have pain or the pain worsens, is when most people begin to realize that the injury is much worse then they had imagined.
Effects of Improper Treatment
Improper treatment of whiplash injuries and all soft tissue injuries is a factor in about 50% of the patient's that finally present themselves to our clinic. Some patients are given a soft cervical collar by there medical doctor. If this collar is worn too long, the collar itself can further weaken supportive muscles and actually lengthen recovery time. If a muscle, ligament, tendon, or joint is subject to prolonged immobilization after injury or surgery this can have significant and profound negative effects. If a fracture is present the patient is to be first seen by Neuro-surgeon to rule out spinal cord injury and will more than likely have to where a special collar/halo until the fracture is healed. Once the fractured vertebrae has healed the patient should be sent to a physical therapist to minimize the negative affects of the prolonged immobilization of the soft tissues. Most MD's and DO's prescribe muscle relaxers, pain medications, and anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) first and skip chiropractic and physical therapy all together. Always remember chiropractic and physical therapy first, medicine second, and surgery last.
What should I do if I am in a car accident?
- Stop - do not obstruct traffic
- Assist the injured
- Protect the scene - to prevent further injury
- Call an officer - local Police Department
- Keep notes - strictly to yourself
- Assist the officer - give basic facts
- Identify the other driver
- Obtain witnesses information
- Arrest does not indicate liability
- Do not leave the scene until doing the previous 9 things
- See a Chirorpactor and Physical Therapist
- Inform your insurance company
Do I need an attorney? How do I find one who is familiar with auto accidents, personal injury, and/or whiplash cases?
We can refer you to several attorneys in the area that specialize in Personal Injury Claims and who have assisted our patients in the past.