How can Chiropractic help with Whiplash?

We’ve all  likely heard of whiplash before.  However, if you’ve never actually experienced this type of an injury, you can never truly appreciate the pain and length of rehabilitation that can often be related to it. It is a nasty injury that usually takes a long time to get over.  So what is whiplash? What are the best exercises after you have suffered a whiplash injury and what can your Chiropractic physician do to help speed the recovery process? 

Most commonly, whiplash is an injury that takes place in a car accident, however I have seen this type of an injury take place in other situations such as being hit from behind on the ski slopes or taking a hard fall to the ground. The impact results in a rapid and extreme forward-then-backward movement of the head. If the individual is unaware of the impending impact, the blow puts an extreme force of impact into the joints of the head and neck which results in extreme joint pain, inflammation, and sometimes in extreme cases, fractures.   If the person sees the impact coming they will typically “brace” for the collision, causing muscle strain and/or muscle tearing.  Though possibly less-serious because of the lack of bony involvement, the muscle pain is nonetheless very painful.

One interesting characteristic of whiplash pain is its manifestation. It is common for patients to walk away from their car accident not feeling a whole lot of pain.  While your adrenaline is flowing the trauma to the neck joints and muscles often doesn’t manifest itself until a few days later. It is very common for my patients to be in A LOT of pain 1-3 days or weeks to a month or 2 after the incident, and that pain can last for months to years.

Whiplash is a very common ailment we treat here at the Vector Spine and Sport.  After the necessary steps have been taken, and the neck has been cleared by x-ray it is important to get started in Chiropractic care and when tolerated Physical Therapy right away.  Early movement to the spine, with supervision and guidance by your Health care team will ensure the quickest path to recovery.  Your treatment at Vector Spine and Sport for whiplash pain will generally consist of three major areas of focus:

●    Warm Up – A very important step to prepare the head and neck for increased movement using manual therapy. 
●    Manual Therapy – Utilize a combination of soft tissue massage and gentle joint mobilization to help improve neck motion.  After a whiplash injury, lack of neck movement is the main issue, and this needs to be addressed first.  This is probably the most important part of your treatment initially for whiplash.  Whiplash pain, though initially focused in the neck area, often extends into the upper back muscles and sometimes even into the lower back.  Each of those painful areas needs addressed with a hands-on approach by your Health care professional.
●    Specific Exercise – One of the most important parts of treating whiplash injury is a customized, focused home exercise program. Your muscles and joints are designed to move; after a whiplash injury it’s important to remind them of that fact. Initially the focus should be on stretching and motion and then with time progressing towards postural strengthening as pain decreases.

So what are some of the best exercises for whiplash? Click on the image below to see some of our most-recommended exercises for whiplash injury. Please note that these are shared for educational purposes only (see disclaimer below); in order to achieve maximum benefit you should consult your healthcare professional for a unique, custom plan of care specific to your individual needs.

Click on the image below to open the PDF in a new window

Whiplash can be a very frustrating ailment to deal with.  It requires patience, diligence, and consistency to see significant results. Rehabilitation following these accidents comes with ups and downs, good days and bad, but there is certainly light at the end of the tunnel. Chiropractic, Acupuncture, Massage and PT can help you get there in the quickest, safest way possible.  So give the Vector Spine and Sport a call or schedule today, and let us help you get on the road to recovery.

9 Common Types of Neck Injury

Neck injuries vary in severity and type, they can be caused by accidents, trauma to the area, falls, sleeping in off positions, degenerative changes or a combination of things.

Neck Injuries Affecting Soft Tissue

This category would include damage to one or more anatomical part in your neck. The soft tissue include the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves. These work together to hold your head up on your bones. usually when there is a trauma there will be several diagnoses for example in whiplash can include muscle strains, ligament sprains, joint dysfunction, disc injuries and even bone fractures.

The good news is that most of the time neck injuries that mainly affecting the soft tissue are very treatable with conservative care.

Muscle Strain

A neck muscle strain is and injury to any of the muscles that attach to and move the head and upper part of the spine known as the cervical spine. The symptoms include reduced range of motion, muscle spasm, increased pain during active range of motion.

With a Grade II neck strain, the injury is limited to the muscle only. Like a Grade 1 strain, your neck pain is likely not indicative of other types of structural damage. But when it comes to Grades III and IV, it is. According to the Quebec Task Force on Whiplash-Associated Disorders, Grade III neck strain is associated with nerve damage. In this case, you may, among other things, get weak and/or feel electrical sensations down one arm. With these injuries, making an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible will likely give you the best chance of a full recovery.
Needless to say, Grade IV neck strains are the most serious of all. The Quebec Task Force says these are related to fracture or vertebral dislocation. This injury requires immediate medical attention.

Neck Sprain

Sprains are injuries to ligaments. (Ligaments are strong bands of connective tissue that hold bones together.) Neck sprains can be caused by falls or sudden twists that overload or overstretch one or more joints in your cervical spine. Another cause is repeated stress to the joint. These are common in sport injuries and auto accidents alike, and are treated in chiropractic offices every day.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic surgeons (AAOS), symptoms of a neck sprain can be very varied but may include pain at the back of your neck that gets worse when you move, pain that comes on slowly and peaks after about 24 hour hours.

Neck sprains can also bring on less structural type symptoms, including a sore throat, mood changes, difficulty concentrating or sleeping and more, the AAOS says.

Similar to neck strains, neck sprains can be mild, moderate, or severe and are graded. This may mean, for example, that if you have tingling down one arm, your sprain is a Grade III. Always check with your doctor to be sure.

Whiplash-Associated Disorders (WAD)

Whiplash (WAD) is a set of symptoms following a movement event in which the head is thrown first into hyperextension and then quickly forward into flexion. It’s most often due to car accidents, but may be caused by sports injuries, falls, or trauma.

Like a neck crick, WAD is not a medical diagnosis. It’s an episode that can lead to any number of diagnoses from strain to a herniated disc and sometimes more.

Whiplash may damage joints or discs, which in turn may irritate spinal nerve roots or, more rarely, the spinal cord, causing nerve symptoms.

Depending on the exact nature of the injury, symptoms can include pain, weakness, numbness, tingling, or other electric-type sensations that go down one arm. Stiffness, dizziness, or disturbed sleep are also possible. Note that symptoms may be delayed a few days or even weeks following the whiplash event.

Research suggests that a multi-modal approach to treating whiplash can be effective. This includes chiropractic care, massage therapy, physical therapy, acupuncture, injection therapy.

Herniated Disc

A herniated disc occurs when the soft substance that is normally contained to the inside of the disc (called the nucleus pulposus) starts to push through the annulus fibrosus and create a bulge/herniation into the spinal canal or foramina. This can can compress and irritate a nerve root, you’ll likely feel pain and/or have nerve-related symptoms. Nerve-related symptoms generally includes weakness, numbness, a burning sensation, or electrical shock sensation that go down one arm.

Tears in the tough outer fibers of the disc (called annular tears) may lead to a herniation. Annular tears may be brought on by either repeated or a sudden, forceful stress to the spinal joint. Treatment generally starts with medication and physical therapy but may proceed to surgery as needed.

Herniated discs can happen anywhere along the spine where one of the shock-absorbing cushions are located, including of course, in the cervical spine, or neck, area.

Disc herniations can be symptomatic and asymptomatic, these can be treated successfully with conservative care. Just because you may have a herniation or more does not mean that you will always be in pain. There is hope and we are professionals who specialize in fixing the problem not just masking your symptoms for a time.

Stingers and Burners

Named for the way they feel, stingers and burners are temporary injuries to the spinal nerve. They are common in football players, especially tacklers, as well as other contact-sport athletes.

Stingers and burners may be caused either by an abrupt tilt of the head or when the head and shoulder are forced in opposite directions at the same time. This type of injury is from applying too much traction to the nerve and over stretching them.

Symptoms include burning, stinging, numbness/weakness, or an electrical sensation down one arm. You may feel a warm sensation along with the other symptoms.

If a stinger or burner is severe or lasts longer than a few minutes, see a sports chiropractor or other professional.

Neck Fracture

A is a break in a cervical bone. It may be caused by trauma, a fall, or degenerative changes in the spine. The angle of force at impact often determines the type and severity of the break.

Football players who block with their head are at high risk for cervical fractures. Elderly people with osteoporosis are also at risk, because of their fragile bones. The most serious neck fractures are generally accompanied by a dislocation.

Treatment depends on a lot of things, including your age, other medical conditions, and the extent of damage to your spine.

Cervical Dislocation

Dislocation occurs when a neck bone moves out its normal position, creating spinal instability. When a neck bone is dislocated, either an injury or degenerative changes disrupt the ligaments that normally hold it in place, causing it to separate from the bone below.

When brought on by trauma, a dislocation may be accompanied by fracture.

In the most severe dislocation, the bone is fully displaced forward (called jumping), and it locks in this position. The ligaments rupture completely. Dislocations may damage the spinal cord and/or require surgery.

Less severe forms occur when the bone does not move all the way out, or when only one side fully displaces. Mild dislocations may go back in place on their own.

Spinal Cord Injury

A spinal cord injury (SCI) occurs when a fracture, dislocation, or other neck injury damages the spinal cord. The speed of emergency care and the type of first aid and medical treatment immediately given are especially critical to survival and subsequent quality of life following any serious neck injury. SCI are one of the most most serious and life altering of injuries that could happen in life.

Here at Vector Spine and Sport we treat and co-treat many of these conditions. If you have any questions or concerns what route of treatments would best suit your case, please reach out and give us a call or send us an email. We are always glad to help in any way we can.

Importance of seeing a Chiropractor after a car accident.

Time is essential after being in an auto-accident. According to the Journal of Orthopedic Medicine, “Chiropractic is the only proven effective treatment in Chronic [whiplash] cases”(1). Early intervention drastically increases the effectiveness and outcomes when it comes to car accidents. Now am I saying that Chiropractic care is the best thing for everyone after a car accident, No I am not, I am saying that it is beneficial to see a musculo-skeletal specialist. These could be Chiropractors, Physical therapists, Massage therapists, Orthopedic surgeons etc. Unfortunately for most people they only go to the urgent care or primary care physicians, who prescribe some muscle relaxers and pain killers. This gets you part way because in the early stages of injury after a car accident you are in the acute inflammatory phase, which is between 1-7 days after injury. This phase the pain goal is to minimize inflammation and pain, effective non-medication modalities are: gentle manipulation, soft tissue therapy, laser therapy, therapeutic taping to name a few. After phase 1 if the Sub acute phase anywhere from day 3 to around 3 weeks after the injury. This phase is categorized by inflammation reduction and feeling like you can move a little bit better than before. Phase 3 is the remodeling phase which takes place between 1-6 weeks typically, This is an important time to be preparing the soft tissues of the body to be ready to work again through manipulation, massage, and therapeutic exercises if tolerated. Phase 4 the functional phase is between 2 weeks and 6 months, the goal here is to be getting back to normal activities without re-injury. This is where physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, soft tissue therapy and rehabilitation exercises are needed to get you to have the best outcomes possible after these types of injury.

Most people after a car accident either go to an emergency room or insta-care where they are prescribed Some muscle relaxers and pain killers, and told to take it easy. The more serious cases are referred to either a Chiropractor or a Physical therapist. Who is going to be the best person to see after a car accident? Chiropractor or Physical therapist (PT)? The answer is both in most cases in my experience. The Chiropractor is going to prepare your body to do the activities that the PT prescribes. How does the Chiropractor get your body ready for physical activity? Through a combination of modalities such as chiropractic adjustments/manipulation, muscle work, massage therapy, inferential current/electrical stimulation, laser therapy, ultrasound and more. The PT is going to help by giving exercises to strengthen the areas that were injured and need strengthening to create more stability after the accident.

What signs that say you need to go to see a professional?

  • Neck pain or soreness
  • Upper back pain or soreness
  • Low back pain or soreness
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
  • Head ache
  • Sensitivity to light or sounds
  • lingering pains after a car accident

This is just a short list of signs that there is some tissue damage and that you should see a specialist.

I have seen first hand how much Chiropractic and Physical therapy working together drastically improve the lives of those people after an accident.

1. S Khan, J Cook, M Gargan & G Bannister (1999) A Symptomatic Classification of Whiplash Injury and the Implications for Treatment, Journal of Orthopaedic Medicine, 21:1, 22-25, DOI: 10.1080/1355297X.1999.11719898

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