What Causes Whiplash & What are the Symptoms?
Whiplash occurs when your neck’s soft tissues (muscles and ligaments) are extended beyond their normal range of motion. It is not an injury that is often immediately apparent, so you need to pay close attention to how you feel after an accident. If you have recently been involved in a collision of any kind, it is possible you could be suffering from whiplash. This can happen after a sports, vehicle, or even amusement park collision causes your neck to whip backward and forward suddenly.
When Should You Get Treatment for Whiplash?
It normally takes up to 24 hours for the symptoms of whiplash to become apparent. However, it can sometimes take days or even weeks for the full range of symptoms to appear. Although many medical experts state whiplash is a “minor” injury, the effects can be extremely painful and cause a lot of discomfort. The symptoms include:
- Tightness, decreased range of motion, and pain in the neck. It is likely your neck muscles will feel hard, knotted, and tight.
- Pain when you move your head from side to side or backward and forward.
- Tenderness in the neck region.
- Headaches at the base of your skull that radiate towards the forehead.
Whiplash is typically used as a different name for a neck strain, and it’s important to note it is different from a neck sprain. Whiplash is caused by damage to muscles or tendons, whereas neck sprains are the result of ligament tears.
Chiropractic Treatment for Whiplash
As no two cases of whiplash are the same, chiropractic treatment is performed on a case-by-case basis. What you can expect, however, is a chiropractic exam that will determine the primary dysfunctions and help the chiropractor chart the best course of treatment. Some of the most typical chiropractic whiplash treatments used by professionals include:
- Spinal Manipulation: This is sometimes known as a chiropractic adjustment and involves gently moving the involved joint in the direction it is currently restricted. Depending on the results of your exam, spinal manipulation may involve a slow, mobilizing movement or a quick thrust.
- Muscle Relaxation/Stimulation: This consists of a series of gentle stretches to the muscle(s) with excessive tension, or muscles that are inhibited will be subject to repeated contractions. If your muscles are extremely tight, the chiropractor may opt for more vigorous stretches.
- McKenzie Exercises and Stabilization: The purpose of McKenzie exercises is to reduce the level of disc derangement associated with whiplash injuries. These are easy movements that can be performed at home and allow you to take an active role in your recovery. Stabilization exercises are designed to correct faulty movement patterns you may have in daily life. This should help your neck muscles maintain stability of your neck.
- Ergonomic and Lifestyle Choices: Your chiropractor should be able to look at your individual situation and advise certain changes to your lifestyle (work, home, and leisure activities). There may be activities you perform regularly that enhance the dysfunctions that arise from a whiplash accident.
As well as providing you with an individualized whiplash plan, a chiropractor may also refer you to another medical specialist if it is deemed necessary to speed up your recovery.