Whiplash occurs when the head and neck go beyond the range of motion before the neck muscles can contract to limit the amount of movement to stabilize the area. Whiplash is very common in car accidents, however, we see cases in sport injuries, falls, and various other situations as well. The mechanism of injury occurs when you are struck from behind and looking straight forward. The head first goes into extension (pictured to the right) then into flexion and this happens incredibly fast (average 400ms.) As you can see in the xray to the right, this traumatizes the joints in the neck. Most commonly in the middle of the neck where the vertebrae compress together. This creates a strain in the muscles of the neck and a sprain in the ligaments of the cervical (neck) vertebrae. When ligaments are damaged they do not heal back to 100% percent. This leaves scar tissue in the neck which will forever alter the movement in the neck.
Treatment on whiplash should be targeted to reducing pain, inflammation, and irritation of the joints/nerves. We do not recommend aggressive manipulation in the neck following trauma. In my experience, this as proved to slow the healing process. Once pain reduction is achieved, our focus shifts to restoring joint mobility and muscle function to the best of their ability. This helps reduce the effects of whiplash in the future.
We have found that it is always imperative to be checked after an automobile accident even if there is "no pain" involved. We see many patients that have the effects of a whiplash injury years after their accident. This reveals itself in xrays showing premature osteoarthritis in the middle to lower joints in the neck while the others look perfectly healthy. It is also important to know that the speed of the collision is not indicative of the amount of injury. Some individuals have injury after very little trauma while others can have minor injury after a high speed collision. Recognizing when an injury has occurred and receiving proper care following the accident is crucial for maximizing improvement and residual effects in the future.
Some tips to help reduce the effect of a whiplash injury would be to make sure your head rest is positioned directly behind your head. This will decrease the amount of extension that can occur in the accident. Always be wearing your seat belt as well. This limits the amount of flexion going forward and helps stabilize your body position.
We provide a wide variety of treatment options for whiplash including chiropractic care, interferential therapy, infrared light therapy, spinal decompression therapy, vibration plate therapy, trigger point therapy, and myofascial/lymphatic massage.