Proper treatment for whiplash injuries is extremely important. Most auto accidents involve sudden acceleration, an abrupt stop, or both. This sudden motion injures muscles (strains) and spinal joints, ligaments, and tendons (sprains). These injuries result in inflammation and scar tissue development.
These “Soft Tissue Injuries” can present as:
- Joint pain
- Muscle spasms
The Healing Process
When left untreated, soft tissue injuries result in scar tissue formation. Scar tissue can also affect your long-term health, resulting in back pain, neck pain, and headaches. You must have your injuries evaluated as soon as possible after your car accident to ensure your body heals correctly. Soft tissue injuries usually take six to eight weeks to heal completely. By beginning your treatment right after your injury, you help ensure it will recover as quickly as possible with minimal scar tissue development.
Med Pay Insurance in Colorado
When you choose your insurance in Colorado, you’ll select the MedPay policy that is right for you. Typically this coverage starts at a minimum of $5,000 and can go to $25,000.
- If you’re in an accident, report it to your insurance provider so they can open a claim.
- Choose the care you’d like to receive, whether chiropractic care, acupuncture, or massage therapy.
Med Pay policies help you get the care you need without paying out of pocket for things like co-pays and deductibles (that are required when using health insurance). Best of all, Medpay coverage is required on your Colorado insurance policy.
What is “Whiplash”?
Whiplash injuries occur when the neck and head are forced backward (extension) and rapidly forward (flexion). By moving so quickly, this “back and forward” motion causes an almost instantaneous “whip-like” movement in the cervical spine, creating extreme stress and injury.
Various high-impact events can cause whiplash. While rear end accidents are the most common causes of whiplash, sports injuries, assaults, “slips and falls,” and other high-impact activities are also common causes of whiplash. The medical term for whiplash is cervical acceleration-deceleration (CAD) syndrome.
Whiplash Symptoms Can Vary From Mild to Severe
The most common symptom of whiplash, unsurprisingly, is neck pain. Its severity can vary from mild stiffness and “pins-and-needles” to excruciating pain and immobility. Other symptoms can include reduced range of motion, neck instability, shoulder or upper back pain, and frequent headaches. Tingling, weakness, or numbness radiating down the arms to the hands and fingers are also common. Because of this, whiplash symptoms are also called “Whiplash-Associated Disorders” (WAD).
The 5 Phases of a Whiplash Injury:
- The auto accident victim’s vehicle is struck from behind, forcing the occupants back against the seat. The force of the impact “loads” the spine, compressing the cervical spine.
- The upper body (in contact with the seat) continues accelerating forward while the head (not yet in contact with the seat) does not. As a result of these forces, the cervical spine’s natural forward-facing “C-shape” (lordosis) temporarily becomes an unnatural S-shape. The abnormal compression and shearing forces can damage intervertebral discs, facet joints, and other structures in the neck.
- The person’s head is forced back into the rapidly accelerating seat. This causes the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the front of the neck also to be injured as the neck rapidly extends rearward.
- The head “rebounds” off of the seat back, accelerating forward.
- While the seatbelt helps keep the passenger restrained in their seat, it allows the neck to flex forward rapidly. Rapid posterior motion causes injury to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the neck.
While the severity of a crash typically correlates to the severity of the whiplash injury, that’s not always the case. Older vehicles tend not to show as much damage in accidents. While this adds to the vehicle’s durability, it tends to increase the risk of injury to the driver and passengers in a vehicle. In this case, the forces not absorbed by the car exterior are transferred through the seat, causing worse injury. Despite the seeming complexity of these injuries, whiplash can occur at speeds of just 10 miles per hour.
The Typical “Course” of Whiplash Injury
While many people who sustain a whiplash injury will completely recover within three months, some may take longer. Still, many published studies have found chronic pain and other symptoms lasting for years.
Factors that increase the risk for delayed whiplash recovery include:
- Severe pain at the time of injury
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Older age
- Female gender
While some whiplash symptoms can present at the time of injury, others may take hours or days to appear.
When Whiplash Is Serious?
Anyone experiencing physical symptoms (E.g., pain or stiffness) after a motor vehicle accident should see a whiplash specialist as soon as possible. However, showing any of the following signs warrants immediate medical attention:
- Severe or debilitating pain
- Neck instability or weakness
- Pain, tingling, numbness, and/or weakness radiating into the shoulder, arm, or hand
- Difficulty with maintaining their balance or coordination
- Cognitive changes, increased irritability, difficulty sleeping, depression, problems concentrating, or other significant changes in behavior
Seeking early treatment or evaluation of whiplash injuries is strongly recommended. Delaying your treatment can reduce its effectiveness and prolong your symptoms.
The Best Treatment for Whiplash Injuries
The primary whiplash treatment for whiplash injuries are spinal adjustments. These highly effective treatments involve gently moving the fixed or “subluxated” vertebrae with a short “thrust.”
Secondly, stabilization exercises help correct the movement patterns of joints and muscles injured in an auto accident. These exercises help coordinate and control movement patterns, improving neck mobility and stability.
These exercises help treat major traumas from falls or whiplash and “microtrauma” from minor injuries from playing sports or performing ordinary activities of daily living (ADL).
Schedule a Free Auto Accident Injury Evaluation
Because each case of whiplash is different, it’s difficult to generalize about chiropractic whiplash treatment. Because of this, your chiropractic treatment must be unique to your specific whiplash injury. A thorough whiplash evaluation, exam, and x-rays will determine the best treatment for your injuries.
Integrative Health and Rehab has many different types of treatment to help with your injuries. They include:
- Chiropractic Adjustments
- Electric Muscle Stimulation
- Dry Needling
- Low-Level Laser Therapy
If you’ve been in a car accident, schedule a FREE Auto Accident Injury Evaluation with an experienced provider. Don’t wait to begin treating your injuries! Our office is conveniently located for patients in Arvada, Northwest Denver, and Wheat Ridge, Colorado! Learn more about the conditions we treat and the benefits of the many types of treatment we provide on our Health Articles page. Still not sure? Check out some of our 5-Star Google reviews and see what our happy, healthy, pain-free patients have to say.