Chiropractic has been a blessing to millions of people who have had whiplash injuries. What exactly is a whiplash injury and how does chiropractic help?
Whiplash is not a disease like arthritis or high blood pressure, but a description of how an injury occurred. When a person suffers a whiplash injury he or she is telling you that their spine, usually their head and neck, were unexpectedly thrown very quickly in one direction and then rebounded in the opposite direction. Their head was “whipped around” on their neck, usually front to back, but it can also happen from a side to side motion of the neck as well. To complicate matters, if their head is rotated even a slight bit to the right or left during the accident the effects of the injury are increased.
Where’s the Damage?
The vast majority of whiplash sufferers misalign the spinal bones (cervical vertebrae) in their neck and cause nerve, joint, ligament, tendon, muscle and disc stress, irritation or damage. Chiropractors have a special name to describe this type of condition – a vertebral subluxation. Research is revealing it to be the most common source of pain and discomfort from whiplash injuries.[i]
What is a Vertebral Subluxation?
A whiplash injury is a dramatic example of one type of vertebral subluxation; the kind produced by accident or trauma. Subluxations may also be caused by emotional stress and tension that slowly build up day by day; micro-trauma. A chiropractic examination often includes a discussion of your personal habits and any injuries, falls, accidents or situations which may contribute to subluxations. Chiropractors are the only healthcare professionals specially trained to locate and correct your subluxations.
Whiplash Symptoms – Body and Mind
Immediately after an accident you may feel some neck soreness or stiffness, perhaps accompanied by a headache a few hours later. Various symptoms may develop later, such as pain, numbness, tingling or a pins-and-needles feeling between the shoulder blades, in the arm, hand and fingers. Depending on the nerves affected you may have ear ringing, dizziness, hearing loss, eye pain, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, nasal problems, low back pain and even internal organ problems.2-4[ii][iii][iv]
Whiplash sufferers sometimes have memory, thinking, vision and psychological problems even if there is no head or brain injury.[v] Research has revealed that a neck subluxation can cause decreased blood flow to the brain!
A concussion may accompany a whiplash. In a concussion the brain is thrown around inside the skull – similar to scrambling an egg without damaging the shell. Concussion symptoms may include headache, restlessness, irritability, insomnia, moodiness, depression and emotional ‘jitters’ that may last for hours, days or months after the accident.
Immediately After the Accident
Anyone who has been in an accident should first make sure there is no life-threatening emergency such as broken bones, bleeding, internal organ damage, serious contusions or abrasions, shock or other damage. This is the specialty of emergency medicine. Although the X-rays, MRI or CT scans and other tests may have found “nothing” the patient’s spine has not been analyzed for subluxations. The patient will not completely heal, may suffer from chronic problems and may develop arthritis and disc problems years after the accident because a chiropractor was not consulted right away.
It is essential that after the patient is out of immediate danger, when it is safe to do so, every accident victim be checked by a doctor of chiropractic for vertebral subluxations.
The damage to the joints, discs, nerves, vertebrae and related tissues caused by subluxations will not go away by itself. No amount of drugs or therapies will give the patient what the doctor of chiropractic can give: the spinal adjustment which realigns the spinal column safely and easily, without drugs or surgery.
Chronic Whiplash Problems
Some whiplash symptoms heal rapidly, yet others may suffer long-term chronic pain and impairment. From 50% to as many as 88% may continue to suffer pain and some amount of disability for many years after the accident.[vi]
Those who have chronic complaints due to incomplete healing after an accident are said to suffer from various conditions know as Post-concussion Syndrome (PCS), Whiplash Syndrome (WS), Post Whiplash Syndrome (PWS), Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (MTBI) and mild head injury (MHI).
Chiropractic Care for Whiplash Victims
Chiropractic effectiveness with whiplash sufferers has long been observed and reported in professional journals. In fact, chiropractic’s superiority was finally admitted in a major medical journal when after the authors interviewed 93 patients they concluded: “Whiplash injuries are common. Chiropractic is the only proven effective treatment in chronic cases.”
Any accident may cause the vertebral subluxation complex where the spinal vertebrae are out of proper alignment and irritating or damaging spinal nerves. If you’ve ever been involved in any accidents, whiplash or otherwise, no matter how long ago, please see your doctor of chiropractic to ensure that you have really healed as completely as possible. Trauma or injury from many years ago may be responsible for health problems suffered today.
[i] Lord, WM, Barnsley L, Wallis, BJ, Bogduk, N. Chronic cervical zygapophysial joint pain after whiplash: a placebo- controlled prevalence study. Spine, 1996: 1996:21:1737-1745.
[ii] Chrisman, OD, Gervais, R.F., Otologic manifestations of the cervical syndrome. Clin. Orthop. 1962; 24:34-39.
[iii] Stewart, DY, Current concepts of the ‘Barre Syndrome’ or the ‘Posterior Cervical Sympathetic Syndrome’. Clin. Orthop. 1962; 24: 40-48.
[iv] Brown, S. Ocular dysfunction associated with whiplash injury. Aust. J. Physiotherapy. 1995; 41: 55-56
[v] Di Stefano, G, Radanov, BP. Course of attention and memory after common whiplash. Acta Neurol. Scand. 1995; 91; 346-352
[vi] Seletz, E. Whiplash injuries: neurophysiological basis for pain and methods used for rehabilitation. JAMA 1958; 168:1750-1755.
Disclaimer: Information contained in this blog post is for educational and general purposes only and is designed to assist you in making informed decisions about your health. Any information contained herein is not intended to substitute advice from your physician or other healthcare professional.