Of the millions of people who visit doctors of chiropractic
each year, a large number have had whiplash injuries. Whiplash
injuries occur when a person’s spine, usually their neck,
was hurt by being unexpectedly or suddenly thrown very quickly in
one direction and then in the opposite direction. You might say
the head is whipped around on the neck.
Whiplash is one of the most common consequences of auto
accidents; it is estimated that 25%-30% of car occupants will
suffer neck pain.
In almost all whiplash-type injuries the spine is thrown first
in one direction and then is pulled in the opposite direction
because the muscles react to the initial injury by pulling or
rebounding in the opposite direction. The rebound can and often
does cause injury to your soft tissues—muscles, ligaments,
tendons and other tissues. Occasionally a whiplash injury can
result from side-to-side motion of the neck, also called left and
right lateral hyperflexion.
There is more to whiplash than being thrown forward and
backward. Usually the head is turned to the right or left a
little when an accident occurs and this can complicate the
effects of the injury.
Whiplash can be mild to severe and can range from rapid healing
to slow healing to long-term chronic pain and impairment. It can
cause serious problems because it can cause long term damage.
Studies show that a large percentage of whiplash sufferers, from
50% to as much as 88%, may continue to suffer pain and some
amount of disability for years after the accident.
Spinal Cord Damage
Depending on the severity of the accident, whiplash damage can
range from barely noticeable stiffness to death. A worst case
scenario occurs in a small minority of cases where there is
actual bone fracture and spinal cord damage causing paralysis or
Whiplash symptoms may start as neck soreness or stiffness,
perhaps accompanied by a headache immediately or within a few
hours of the accident. Along with these symptoms there may be
pain and/or numbness, tingling or a pins-and-needles feeling
between the shoulder blades, arm and hand.
Some people may experience ear ringing, dizziness or even
hearing loss. Sometimes the eyes can be affected and there may be
pain behind the eyeballs, blurred vision, sensitivity to light or
other visual symptoms. Occasionally, there may be tearing or
running of the nose.
Post Concussion Syndrome
A concussion may accompany a whiplash. It occurs from a
violent shaking of the head where the brain is thrown around
against the skull—similar to scrambling an egg without
damaging the shell. Concussion symptoms may include headache,
restlessness, irritability, insomnia, moodiness, depression and
emotional jitters that may last for hours or days after the
accident. This grouping of symptoms is now being called Post
Concussion Syndrome (PCS.)
Not only whiplash but any kind of accident may cause the
vertebral subluxation complex where the vertebrae (spinal bones)
are out of proper alignment and impinging or irritating spinal
nerves. Pain killers, muscle relaxers, sedatives or physical
therapy cannot re-align the vertebrae and relieve the nervous
system from pressure. What is needed is chiropractic care (spinal
adjustment) to re-align the spinal column.
Vertebral Subluxation Complex
A whiplash injury is a dramatic example of subluxations
produced by sudden accident or trauma. Other subluxations may be
caused by poor posture, repeated stressful movements, poor
sleeping positions, bad diet, fatigue, constant emotional stress
or even extensive dental work.
If you are involved in a whiplash-type accident,
see your doctor of chiropractic as soon as possible to make sure
you heal as completely as possible.
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