It is estimated that two out of every five adults will be involved in a car accident each year. Of the thousands of injuries per year due to motor vehicle crashes, about half are whiplash-type injuries. Of those injured, more than fifty percent will develop chronic pain.
Whiplash injuries most commonly occur while riding in a car that is struck from the front, back or side. It can also occur from sports injuries, slips and falls or other unexpected, rapid motions of the neck. When the head is suddenly jerked back to front, front to back, or side to side, the muscles, ligaments and other soft tissues supporting the spine and head can be overstretched or torn. Vertebrae can be forced out of their normal position, reducing range of motion. The spinal cord and nerve roots in the neck can be stretched and irritated.
A series of studies have shown that the threshold for cervical spine soft tissue injury is less than five mph. The resulting instability of the spine and soft tissues can result in headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, pain in the shoulder, arms and hands, reduced ability to turn and bend, and even low back problems. As the body attempts to adapt, symptoms may not appear for weeks or even months. Once thought to suggest minimal injury, a delay in onset of symptoms has been shown to be the norm, rather than the exception. The body tries to adapt and muscle spasms can temporarily mask the injuries.
Your chiropractor can effectively evaluate the tissues that are at risk in a whiplash type of injury even before the symptoms develop. The chiropractic approach to these types of injuries is to use specific chiropractic adjustments to help return normal spinal function. After a thorough case history and examination, the doctor will recommend a series of visits to help restore proper motion and position of the spinal bones. If caught early enough, reduction of inflammation can often prevent the formation of scar tissue. Even years after an injury, chiropractic care can provide significant relief of symptoms and return of more normal function.
Consult your doctor of chiropractic as soon as you suffer a jarring injury, before enduring constant headaches, becoming dependent upon pain medications or submitting to needless surgery. Keep in mind that patients who begin treatment thirty or more days after an accident can take up to three times longer to fully recover from a whiplash injury than those who begin treatment immediately.