Last week I had the opportunity to help a patient who had an accident while wakeboarding. She described her fall as she was attempting a kind of flip off a ramp on her wakeboard. The missed attempt resulted in her “scorpioning” on her board. It’s a forward fall into the water where the legs bend and the back arches so that the feet and board nearly hit her in the back of the head. As a result of this fall, she had neck and back injuries, but I was most concerned about what this did to her neck. She definitely suffered a whiplash injury…and she didn’t even know it.
Our neck/cervical spine is such an important area of the body. It holds up and supports the weight of the head. It’s flexibility is unmatched elsewhere in our body as it allows for movement in all ranges, allowing us to see, hear, and speak in the direction we choose. Most importantly, ALL of the nerve impulses from the entire body must pass through the neck in order to reach the brain.
So, a problem in the neck can cause more than just a bit of pain and discomfort, it can literally affect your body right down to your toes! That’s why it’s important to treat injuries to the neck right away, especially whiplash-type injuries. Did you know that there are many ways to suffer a whiplash injury besides a car accident? Did you also know that untreated whiplash injuries are probably the #1 cause of long-term neck problems?
What Is A Whiplash Injury?
Whiplash is a common neck injury caused by a sudden movement that jerks the neck forth and then back in a whipping motion. Automobile accidents frequently result in whiplash, as the vehicle is moving and then stopping rapidly. But, car accidents are not the only cause of whiplash injuries, and being unaware of this may leave you with chronic neck problems.
- Slips and falls, especially a fall backward, can cause whiplash injuries.
- Roller coaster rides and other amusement park rides can cause whiplash injuries.
- Dancing in raves can cause whiplash injuries.
- Football tackles
- accidents with cheerleading, gymnastics, diving, surfing wakeboarding, parasailing, skiing can all cause whiplash injuries.
Symptoms of whiplash include varying degrees of pain, stiffness in the neck, and perhaps headaches and/or dizziness, and maybe even blurred vision, and nausea. But some symptoms are less overt and include sinus stuffiness and chronic sinus infections, changes in your ability to swallow, upper back or “shoulder” pain and tightness, tingling, or pain into the arms or hands, or sleep difficulties and fatigue. In severe cases, the discs and the nerves may also be damaged.
If you have been injured in an automobile crash, or have been involved in an accident like those listed above, here’s why it is in your best interest to immediately schedule an appointment with your chiropractic physician:
#1: Chiropractic Care Reduces Pain & Inflammation
The first order of business and the first phase of care for whiplash sufferers is to get the inflammation and pain reduced. Prolonged inflammation hinders proper healing. As your chiropractor, I utilize gentle chiropractic adjustments, along with other therapies to reduce inflammation quickly and safely. It’s essential to undergo this type of treatment as soon after the injury occurs as possible in order to reach optimum results.
Whiplash can be extremely painful, as so many of the neck’s components may be involved, and the neck is such a mobile body part. Being uncomfortable or having pain with every movement of your head and neck is no way to live! Chiropractic care soothes the pain of whiplash through therapeutic techniques that promote healing of the damaged area.
#2: Chiropractic Care Restores Proper Vertebral & Body Alignment
When the inflammation and the pain of whiplash are reduced, the next phase of care is to further promote healing by restoring proper alignment of the neck bones. A whiplash type of injury often results in a straightening of the normal curve (lordosis) of the neck. The loss of this shock-absorbing curve puts too much pressure on the bones and excess tension on the muscle and nerves. While you may feel better and have a significant reduction in symptoms after the initial phase of care, if the alignment is not corrected those symptoms will most likely reoccur or new symptoms will pop up. A chiropractor will perform a series of chiropractic spinal adjustments that over time will correct vertebral alignment. Just like braces help realign the teeth, Chiropractic adjustments realign the individual bones of the spine and can improve the overall shape of the neck.
#3: Chiropractic Care Incorporates Exercises To Increase Mobility
Contrary to old movies where the whiplash sufferer wears a cumbersome neck brace, it’s vital to the rehabilitation process to keep the neck moving. This has been a major change in medicine where recovery after whiplash injuries is concerned. “Motion is the Lotion” that restores normal joint motion. The chiropractic adjustment helps to restore the segmental motion of the vertebrae and passive and active exercises restore muscle and ligament flexibility. During chiropractic visits in my office, patients receive a regimen of exercises to perform regularly at home. These, combined with chiropractic care, lessen the time it takes to recover and restores motion and strength to the injured structures.
#4: Chiropractic Care Excludes Drugs & Surgery
The good news is that a whiplash injury rarely requires surgery. However, pain-relieving medications are often the first thing prescribed by a medical doctor. While these medications can reduce your pain temporarily, without proper healing, the pain relief only lasts as long as the drug is in your system. Now that we know the dangers of opioid addiction, it’s best to not tempt fate with these medications. Visit your chiropractor to make certain your injuries are treated properly sot hat healing can begin. A chiropractor monitors improvements and keeps you apprised of your progress, empowering you to get better and back to normal activity faster than simply suffering through the symptoms, hoping they go away.
#5: Chiropractic Care Helps Prevent Long-Term Complications
Once your acute and corrective care for your injury has been completed, it’s always a smart choice to protect your investment and your health with some level of on-going maintenance care. Maintenance visits can catch small problems before they become big problems. You know, not every misaligned vertebrae or subluxation is associated with pain. Sometimes these small misalignments persist for years before your body alerts you to it…and by then, more damage has likely occurred. I think of maintenance care the same way I think about, getting tire rotations, performing maintenance of my airconditioning unit, or even getting new running shoes. It doesn’t make any sense to not check and wait until a tire blows, the AC stops working in this 90+ degree heat, or until the shoes are causing me feet to hurt. As a chiropractor, I know that staying well is always easier than getting well, so I recommend maintenance care to all my patients.
If you are involved in a motor vehicle crash and end up with whiplash, don’t despair. A chiropractor will map out a treatment regimen that will decrease inflammation and pain, increase mobility, and promote healing. Remember, the sooner you see your chiropractor, the faster the treatment begins, and the sooner you see results. Don’t suffer needlessly!