If you experience intense pain in your neck or shoulders following a car accident, you might suffer from whiplash. Neck and ligament injury arising from an auto accident is one of the most common auto-related injuries in the U.S.
You can experience whiplash as a neck injury when a sudden impact whips your neck back and forth, straining the neck and adjoining muscles. The sudden impact can affect the muscles, tendons, discs, and nerves in your neck, causing pain while restricting movement in your neck area.
Although whiplash is most common in a vehicle accident, you can suffer from whiplash because of a sports injury, a ride on a rollercoaster, or tripping and falling.
What causes whiplash?
In a rear impact car accident, the neck vertebrae rub against each other, stressing the in-between discs and causing pinched nerves. The force of the sudden impact can whip your cervical spine beyond its normal motion range, affecting your spine’s natural curvature.
Misalignment of your natural spine curvature can cause intense pain in the neck, affecting your sleep routine and restricting your neck mobility.
Whiplash injuries can happen in any vehicle accident. Even when the accident does not significantly damage your vehicle, the sudden impact of the collision can cause you intense neck strain, resulting in whiplash symptoms.
Low impact accidents, like a fender bender, can considerably strain your musculoskeletal system and cervical spine, causing whiplash.
The symptoms of whiplash can occur immediately or within 24 hours of the accident. Some symptoms can surface in a month after a car accident and can linger for several months.
Symptoms of whiplash
Here are some symptoms you can experience after getting whiplash from an accident.
Neck and shoulder pain that often gets worse with movement
Limited motion in the neck
Fatigue and dizziness
Headaches, usually on the back of the head
Upper back pain
Blurred and foggy thinking and confusion
Pain and numbness in arms and shoulders
Fatigue, irritability, sleeping problems
Jaw pain and migraines
A whiplash injury, if not treated promptly, can cause long-term health issues. If your cervical spine stays misaligned, it can compress the surrounding nerves, causing pain along the length of the nerves.
A whiplash auto injury usually does not go away on its own. It can cause persistent pain and distress, causing headaches, numbness, and other health complications.
Diagnosis of whiplash
After the trauma, your chiropractor will conduct a physical exam to evaluate your spine. The spine must be examined even when you suffer from neck pain, as whiplash can affect different areas of your spine.
The chiropractor would locate areas of muscle spasm, vertebrae disc, and ligament injury, concentrating on areas of restricted joint movement. Often, your doctor may use other diagnostic techniques, like motion and static palpation that involve touch to diagnose whiplash injuries.
In addition, your chiropractor will:
- Feel for joint tenderness and tightness, evaluating the movement of your joints. - Consider your posture, how you walk, and your spine alignment to help with the diagnosis.
To assess damage to the soft tissues, diagnosis of whiplash can include the following tests:
X-ray: They look into the images of the joints to get a better idea of the damage that occurred because of the impact.
CT scan or computed tomography: Computer technology takes horizontal or axial images of the body in the form of slices. A CT scan shows images of your body in detail, including organs, bones, and muscle structure. It provides a more detailed picture than an x-ray.
MRI or magnetic resonance imaging: Large magnets and computers provide detailed images of your internal body.
Treatment of whiplash
If you are experiencing neck and shoulder pain along with the other symptoms of a whiplash injury, contact our Portland, OR whiplash chiropractor at Accident Care Chiropractic for effective diagnosis and treatment.
Your chiropractor will decide on the treatment of whiplash based on the following factors:
Your age, general health condition, and medical history.
The nature and extent of your injury.
The medicines and therapies that are suitable for your treatment.
Your expectation and preference regarding the mode of treatment.
Stages of Whiplash Treatment
Initial Treatment Stage:
Immediately after the trauma, your chiropractor can require you to apply ice packs to the affected area to reduce pain and inflammation. In addition, the following steps can be taken.
Using a cervical collar to provide neck support.
Applying gentle movements, including physical therapy.
Prescribing anti-inflammatory medicines, like ibuprofen, to provide pain relief and reduce inflammation.
Prescribing medications that relax muscles and reduce whiplash symptoms.
After the pain and inflammation have been reduced, spinal manipulation procedures and other gentle techniques can be used to restore neck and joint mobility. Some standard spinal manipulation techniques used are:
The technique involves gentle non-thrusting spinal manipulation to treat herniated discs that may or may not involve arm pain. Where the whiplash injury involves a herniated disc, your doctor uses a slow pumping action on the disc instead of direct pressure on the spine.
The chiropractor uses a specialized handheld instrument and applies force without thrusting into the spine. It is used in older patients suffering from degenerative joint syndrome.
Here are some manual therapies your chiropractor can use to treat affected ligaments and muscles:
Manual therapeutic massage can be performed to reduce muscle tension in the affected area.
Joint stretching and relaxation techniques:
Muscle energy therapy is used to stretch and relax the affected muscles, reducing pain and improving mobility.
Trigger point therapy:
Direct pressure is put on the tight muscle points to reduce muscle tension.
Soft tissue therapy using instruments:
Instrument-assisted therapy, like the Graston technique, can be used to treat the affected soft tissues.
Here are some other therapies and services your chiropractor can use to relieve pain and reduce neck inflammation from whiplash.
Treatments using ultrasound:
Ultrasound transmits sound waves deep in the muscles, to improve blood circulation and reduce pain and stiffness in the neck and joints.
This treatment uses a low-frequency electric current to stimulate muscles to improve circulation.
What to expect on your visit to Accident Care Chiropractic?
On your first visit, we’ll ask you to fill out a patient information form to provide your health and medical history. Your chiropractor will conduct an initial interview to discuss your whiplash symptoms and address your concerns. You will have a series of physical and lab tests to determine the nature and extent of the injury.
Based on the interview and the diagnostic tests, your chiropractor will decide on the best treatment for your condition.
Accident Care Chiropractic is available whenever you need us. Please contact your nearest Accident Care Chiropractic office to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors and start your treatment right away. We have 15 locations serving Portland, Salem, Vancouver, and beyond.