A common condition that we treat as chiropractors, especially in Los Angeles where the ony way to get from here to there is with a car, is whiplash. Whiplash is also referred to as the “reversal of the normal cervical spine curvature.”
The most common way that whiplash occurs is through a rear-end vehicular crash. However, there are many other ways that it can occur, i.e., slip and fall accidents, motorcycle accidents, sports injuries, and horseback riding. Whiplash occurs when the muscles in the neck suffer a strain due to a rapid movement backward followed by a rapid movement forward. The sudden motion causes the tendons and ligaments in the neck to stretch and tear, resulting in whiplash.
Symptoms of Whiplash
The most common symptoms of whiplash from a car accident include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Blurred vision
What If Whiplash Isn’t Treated?
If left untreated, whiplash can cause chronic symptoms that include severe neck pain, numbness and tingling in the shoulders and arms, and localized weakness in the neck, shoulder, and arms.
The image to the left is a cervical spine x-ray of a patient who experienced severe whiplash following a motor vehicle accident.
We can see bilateral interfacetal dislocation, a 50% anteroposition of C5 on C6 as a result of the dislocation, widened space between spinous processes C5 and C6 due to ligament rupture, and ruptured disc space.
Treating Whiplash with Chiropractic Treatments
Chiropractic manipulation and therapy play a crucial role in recovery from whiplash. Chiropractic treatments help restore the integrity of the normal cervical curvature. Ice is applied during the acute phase of injury to reduce any inflammation while heat is applied during the chronic stage of healing. Simple neck exercises are practiced with patients to build strength and flexibility in the neck. If there is muscular pain, electronic nerve stimulation is typically applied to reduce pain. It is always beneficial to practice good posture and to learn relaxation techniques to keep the cervical muscles from straining. In severe cases of whiplash, such as the one discussed above, a foam collar may be prescribed to keep the neck stable. However, it should be worn only during the first couple days of injury but not for more than three hours at a time. Prolonged use will cause neck rigidity.