A whiplash injury of the neck, also known as a hyperflexion/hyperextension injury, occurs during any type of sudden acceleration deceleration incident. Whiplash is most common in car accidents but also occurs with snowboarding, skiing, football and other high impact sports. It does not take a lot of force; the acceleration deceleration forces of a car in a rear end collisions as low as 10 MPH can cause the head and neck to whip forward in hyperflexion followed by the head and neck whipping back into hyperextension. These events cause the tissues of the neck to undergo a great deal of stress leading to a wide range of injuries.
Symptoms to recognize:
Symptoms vary from a sore or stiff neck to debilitating pain and disability. You may wake up the next day unable to lift your head off the pillow, pain with the most minimal neck motions, painful swallowing, headache or pain shooting down the arms. You may feel dizzy, confused, emotional, angry and those emotions may rise and fall over weeks. Whiplash injury can be as severe as fractures or dislocation of the spine causing neurological damage. The extent of the injury is based on the forces involved and physical factors such as previous neck injuries.
Whiplash associated disorders include:
- neck pain
- movement loss
- balance loss
- memory loss
- temporomandibular (TMJ) pain
- radiating symptoms
- neurological and orthopaedic sequelae
How can chiropractic help?
A Research Review by Stanley N. Bacso, Chiropractic Management of Whiplash Associated Disorders (WAD), outlined the different phases of WAD and why chiropractic is beneficial. This review found that chiropractic care has been shown to improve cervical range-of-motion and pain management in WAD cases.
Patients in the acute phase of WAD can benefit from early mobilization, education, range of motion exercises and other modalities. In the later phases, patients may benefit from mobilization, myofascial therapy, posture and range of motion exercises.
Don’t wait to be evaluated!
Some of the WADs can be dangerous and time sensitive and should be treated right away. Being evaluated and initiating treatment as soon as possible improves your prognosis and quality of life.
Article written by Cristina Diaz, D.C. at Premiere Spine & Sport. San Jose, Ca