When left untreated, whiplash can have profound long term consequences, including pain, loss of motion, even the early onset of arthritis.
Some motor vehicle accident injuries are severe and require immediate life-saving intervention by paramedics or hospital emergency department personnel.
Other injuries, such as whiplash, involve soft tissue damage to the muscles, ligaments and joints of the neck and back. When the forces transmitted during vehicular collision are strong enough to bend and distort steel, the forces are also strong enough to stretch and tear the muscles and ligament attachments in your neck and can sometimes luxate (or dislocate) the neck and upper back joints out of their normal alignment.
Whiplash commonly involves neck strains and sprains — damage to the muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Tendons are the bands of soft tissue that connect muscles to bones, and ligaments connect bones to each other, supporting joints. When trauma to these tissues is intense, tearing will occur in these tissues and is referred to as strain/sprain. Tearing causes various degrees of bleeding and swelling in and around the joints causing scar tissue formation, often accompanied by pain; however, delays in the onset of pain are not uncommon.
When the body sustains trauma, the brain secretes endorphins, dopamine and enkephalin. They act as natural painkillers which can eclipse the pain, sometimes interfering with motor vehicle accident victims seeking prompt medical attention. It is a natural coping mechanism, but it sometimes distorts the extent of the damage and severity of the injury. During the early stages of the healing period pain messages may be interrupted by endorphine; therefore, if there is muscle spasm or movement feels restricted it is prudent to see a chiropractor to determine if the alignment has been shifted.
It is important to have misaligned bones realigned properly so the supporting ligaments don’t heal with the joints out of their juxtaposition as it will impair neck movement, function, and comfort later on.
To diagnose neck strain/sprain, you will need a thorough examination. You may also need X-rays, CT scans, MRI, or other diagnostic tests to rule out other problems like fractures, hemorrhage, concussion, slipped discs, or pinched nerves.
Treatment for Whiplash
Simple strain/sprain without dislocations can sometimes heal on their own. However, if there is a whiplash strain/sprain with luxation (dislocation) or subluxation (less misaligned than dislocation) the neck will require realignment of the misaligned structures. If the joints haven’t realigned naturally on their own, they should be realigned by your chiropractic physician for optimal recovery.
When misaligned joints heal out place and are not restored to proper alignment, the result is often compromised joint function and chronic pain. The analogy of broken nose best describes misalignment. A displaced fracture that isn’t reset early on will heal incorrectly. Weeks later the misaligned nose has to be re-broken and reset to straighten the nasal passages to restore proper breathing. Misaligned or luxated neck joints will also require realignment so they don’t heal incorrectly and interfere with joint function and freedom of neck and head movement.
It is not uncommon for joint injuries from auto accidents to cause post-traumatic osteoarthritis.
When an acute problem is not treated properly it can develop into a chronic condition; and the chronic condition that is not treated properly can continue to deteriorate to become permanent.
This is often the case with improperly healed joints. Misalignment that persists unresolved for years will cause irregular loading and friction on the cartilage surfaces ultimately developing into scar tissue adhesions and arthritic callus, which can remain inflamed indefinitely.
Early diagnosis and early intervention can prevent or retard the complications of whiplash and the post-traumatic healing process. With our treatment protocol we couple massage, chiropractic manual treatment and physical therapy modalities.
The chiropractor will often administer cold laser treatments for pain management, and supervise the massage therapist to precisely release the areas of scar tissue adhesion in the muscles. Once the soft tissues are stabilized, the chiropractor will gently realign any misaligned joints. This multidisciplinary approach manages pain swiftly, optimises healing, and reduces the probability of long-term disability with chronic pain.
With increased awareness of opioid dependence, abuse and complications, every expert is encouraging patients to consider natural methods as a first resort.
Drugs such as Percocet, Vicodin, Oxycontin and codeine have been historically prescribed for the treatment of moderate to severe whiplash pain. Scientists debate the appropriateness of chronic opioid use for these conditions.
Doctors of chiropractic recognized the complications associated with opioid drugs decades ago, we have always focused on eradicating pain by managing the healing process along with correcting the underlying source of the pain. We promote healing with structural rehabilitation rather than just simply numbing the pain.
Our multidimensional approach:
- We thoroughly examine the injured muscles and skeleton.
- We will order all necessary diagnostic testing and can perform digital x-rays in our office for your convenience.
- We address pain management with natural remedies.
- We treat injured soft tissues with therapy modalities like cold laser treatment, ultrasound and electro acupuncture.
- We often combine these modalities with gentle massage therapy to manage the scarred damaged soft tissues.
- When necessary we administer gentle manual realignment to ensure that the joints heal in their proper position.
- We design an individualized exercise routine to stabilize the healed tissues and maintain normal movement.
- Dislocated, luxated or subluxated joints require realignment so the ligaments don’t heal with the joints aligned incorrectly with the bones in sub-optimal position. Misalignments encumber and impair joint function which impedes movement and return to normal activities. That’s why it’s important to be checked early on after an injury. We don’t want structures healing misaligned. Remember, it is advantageous to realign the shifted parts before they heal improperly and progress to an arthritic condition.
- If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident and you need care, our staff will guide you on how to communicate with your insurance carrier. There are mandatory forms that you need to file to get authorization for treatment. It is essential that you properly file your claim in a timely manner before deadlines, or your claim could be denied by your insurance carrier. We help you prepare and submit all the necessary forms for authorizations to get you the treatment you need, when you need it, rather than you struggling alone with the complexities imposed by insurance regulations.
- Treatment for injuries associated with motor vehicle accidents usually requires no copays, or other out-of-pocket expenses. Let our insurance department take the struggle out of dealing with insurance administrators for you, while the doctor, massage staff and therapy staff get you well.
When all these components of care are addressed properly there is a more rapid recovery with less complications, better outcomes, and long lasting results.