The Truth About Whiplash
You’ve no doubt heard about whiplash, and if you’ve ever been in a car accident, you’ve probably had it. Even though whiplash is fairly common, there are a lot of misconceptions about it. If you have or have had whiplash, here’s a chiropractor’s perspective on what you need to know.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a spinal injury caused by a forceful, back and forth movement of the spine. Whiplash involves ligament sprains and muscle strains within and around the spine. Whiplash is commonly caused by car accidents.
When a car impacts another object, such as another car, your car suddenly stops moving. The same is not true for your body inside your car. Your body continues moving at the same velocity as the car until it is forcefully stopped as well, usually by your seatbelt. As your torso comes to an aggressive halt, your head and neck continue moving forward until you’re yanked back by the constriction of the seatbelt.
This is the violent back and forth movement that causes whiplash injuries.
Whiplash Fact and Fiction
Whiplash can only happen in your neck.
While whiplash is most commonly associated with the neck, it is possible to get whiplash in other areas of your spine.
You have to be going pretty fast to get whiplash.
Nope! Whiplash can occur in accidents happening as slow as 5mph. Even minor “fender benders” can cause long-term pain and complications.
If you have a whiplash injury, you’ll feel it right away.
This is also not true. Many whiplash injuries don’t present the same day as the accident. This can be because of the adrenaline after the accident, but also simply because muscle injuries are generally worse one to two days after. Just because you feel fine immediately after an accident doesn’t mean that you don’t have a serious whiplash injury!
Symptoms of Whiplash
Symptoms of whiplash will generally present within a few days of the accident. Some of the most common symptoms include:
Neck pain and stiffness
Worsening of pain with neck movement
Loss of range of motion in the neck
Headaches, most often starting at the base of the skull
Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back or arms
Tingling or numbness in the arms
Long Term Effects of Whiplash
Another common misconception about whiplash is that it will simply go away with time. Just pop a couple of ibuprofen and wait it out!
In reality, your muscles WILL heal on their own, over a couple of weeks. The most important reason to see a doctor after a car accident or other impact injury is to aid in the healing of your ligaments.
If your ligaments heal over misaligned spinal areas, you can have chronic, lifelong problems. Some of the long-term complications people have from untreated whiplash injuries include pain in the neck and lower back as well as headaches.
Seeing a chiropractor is the best way to treat a whiplash injury. Chiropractors work directly with the tissues and spine to make sure that your muscles and ligaments heal over a properly aligned spinal column for the best long term results.
Chiropractic care for whiplash can include instrument-assisted manipulation and manual adjustments.
Instrument-assisted manipulation is a way to make small adjustments to the spine without the traditional “thrusting” motion used in manual adjustments.
A chiropractor can also use manual adjustments to reposition your spine to allow the muscles and ligaments to heal properly and prevent long-term, chronic pain after your car accident.
Stark Chiropractic and Sports also offers a full range of additional services like dry needling, cupping therapy, and graston technique to help alleviate pain and suffering during your healing process.
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Dr. Stark is a Sports Chiropractor and a certified EMT in North Houston.
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