Ever been in a car accident? If so, chances are good that you’ve experienced whiplash. This common injury is the result of the spine being suddenly shaken, resulting in misaligned bones and inflamed tissue. Besides car accidents, this can be caused in a number of ways, in any situation where the body is violently shaken back and forth. Whiplash is painful, but can be successfully treated by a knowledgeable chiropractor.
When the spine is jarred, whipped, or hit with enough force, the ligaments in the spine are stretched or even torn and the bones thrown out of alignment. This happens most often in the neck (or cervical spine) but can happen anywhere along the spinal column.
You may think that only a very violent impact could cause whiplash, but you’d be surprised! Even a minor fender-bender can result in a whiplash injury. Think about it: an impact strong enough to damage a car will be more than strong enough to throw the delicate bones in the neck out of alignment. 80% of neck injuries are caused by car accidents, and the majority of those accidents are rear-enders.
As soon as the whiplash injury occurs, it triggers an inflammatory response that is usually quite noticeable. The symptoms of whiplash include:
These symptoms may not be evident right away, and in fact it could be 24 to 48 hours, or even as long as a week, before you notice anything. Also, chances are good that you would have sustained other soft-tissue injuries at the same time, so the whiplash symptoms could be masked by other pain or soreness.
If several days have passed since initial injury and you’re still feeling sore or weak, it’s a good idea to consult a chiropractor to be assessed and treated. If whiplash is left untreated for too long, scar tissue can form, resulting in stiffness and pain.
As with any medical visit, the chiropractor will start by conducting an assessment. Because every spine and every injury is different, it is very important to do a thorough exam before starting treatment in order to be as specific as possible.
Although there won’t be any visible signs of whiplash, the provider will be able to figure out whether that is indeed the problem by gently manipulating the affected area and asking some questions. If you were in a car accident, the chiropractor will ask you how fast the car was going, whether you were in the driver’s seat, if the air bag was deployed, etc. This will help to determine the nature and the extent of the injury. In some cases, X-rays may be required as well.
Once the assessment has been completed, the provider will determine a treatment plan. Because each injury is different, each course of treatment will be different. Typically the treatment sessions will involve spinal adjustments for vertebral injuries and manual or massage therapy for soft tissue damage.
Some cases may be resolved with only a few visits, but others could take much longer. For example, older or weaker people are likely to sustain worse injuries, and if you’ve had multiple whiplash injuries then it will almost certainly be more difficult to heal the latest one.
Even after the symptoms have resolved, it’s important to maintain proper care. Even if you’re not experiencing much pain, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the injury is fully healed. If you discontinue treatment before the problem is fully resolved, then the symptoms will just come right back and you may be in worse shape than before. Continuing with chiropractic care is the easiest form of preventive care and will help keep the tissues strong and healthy so that your symptoms don’t reoccur.
One thing to remember when choosing a chiropractor is find an office that is willing to take care of the insurance paperwork. After a car accident, you’ll find yourself buried in a pile of paperwork from insurance companies and lawyers’ offices. An experienced medical office staff will be able to navigate that process for you to make sure that all the bases are covered.
If you think you may have sustained a whiplash injury, consult a chiropractor right away. Even for minor cases of whiplash, it’s important to begin treatment as soon as possible in order to maximize your chances of full recovery. With proper treatment and ongoing care, a chiropractor can help you get back to full strength and stay there.
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