Injuries to the neck caused by a sudden movement of the head, backward, forward, or sideways, are referred to as "Whiplash." Whether from a car accident, sport, or an accident at work, whiplash or other neck injuries warrant a thorough chiropractic check-up. The biggest danger with whiplash injuries is that the symptoms persist for years particularly if not treated appropriately. Even after whiplash victims settle their insurance claims, some 45% report they still suffer with symptoms two years later.
In the past a typical whiplash injury, where no bones were broken, was hard to document. Soft tissue injuries did not show up on normal x-rays/radiographs and insurance companies would deny coverage. New imaging devices (CAT Scans, Magnetic Imaging, and Ultra Sound) now show soft tissue injury and insurance companies now cover most whiplash injuries. When no bones are broken and the head doesn't strike the windshield, typical symptoms are as follows: 62% to 98% complain of neck pain, which typically starts two hours up to two days after the accident: This is often the result of tightened muscles that react to either muscle tears or excessive movement of joints from ligament damage. The muscles tighten in an effort to splint and support the head, limiting the excessive movement. Sixty-six to 70% of those suffering from whiplash complain of headache. The pain may be on one side or both, on again off again or constant, in one spot or more general. These headaches, like the neck pain are often the result of tightened, tensed muscles trying to keep the head stable and, like tension headaches, they are often felt behind the eyes. Shoulder pain often described as pain radiating down the back of the neck into the shoulder blade area, may also be the result of tensed muscles. Muscle tears are often described as burning pain, prickling or tingling. More severe disc damage may cause sharp pain with certain movements, with or without pain radiation into the arms, hand and fingers.
Whiplash is most commonly received from riding in a car that is struck from behind, or collides with another vehicle. When the head is suddenly jerked back and forth beyond its norma1limits, the muscles and ligaments supporting the spine can be overstretched or torn. In a rear end collision for example, the victim's car is first pushed or accelerated forward and then, because their foot is on the brake, or their car hits the vehicle in front, their car is rapidly slowed down, or decelerated. As the vehicle accelerates forward, it pushes the body forward too, but the head remains behind momentarily, rocking up and back, until some of the muscles and ligaments are stretched or torn. Too often, the injury occurs before the head rebounds off the headrest (Providing there is one. If not, the injuries sustained are much worse as there is no method to prevent hyperextension from occurring). These muscles, in a reflex action, contract to bring the occupant's head forward again, and to prevent excessive injury. This overcompensates because at this point the head is already traveling in a forward direction as the car decelerates. This violently rocks the head forward, stretching and tearing more muscles and ligaments, where the joint can become "jammed" and swollen. The soft pulpy discs between the vertebrae can bulge, tear, or rupture. Vertebrae can be forced out of their normal position, reducing range of motion. The spinal cord and nerve roots are stretched, irritated, and choked. If the victim is not properly restrained the occupants head may strike the steering wheel or windshield, possibly causing a concussion.
The soft tissues that are traumatized will go through four stages of healing:
During the first two weeks after injury it is critical to create an optimal healing environment for the various damaged nerves, ligaments, and muscles. They need adequate minerals, vitamins, water, and amino acids if they are to heal properly. A balanced diet with abstinence from dehydrating substances such as alcohol, caffeine, hot dogs and too much hormone grown red meat can be beneficial. During the first day after trauma, the body is in its injury-shock phase. Nutritional changes are not advised for the first day because of the potential for disturbing the body's preprogrammed metabolic balance system. Megadoses of synthetic vitamins and minerals are not suggested. A well balanced, digestible whole food concentrated multivitamin supplement will suffice. Supplement to facilitate the growth of ligaments, muscle and cartilage can be found on one of our Absolute Health links page.
OF SPECIAL NOTE Cigarette smoking during the first few weeks following an injury may interfere with the normal healing process. If you smoke during this time you may slow your recovery down or end up with pain that you would not have otherwise. This may result in your requiring more treatment and a worse outcome. Cigarette smoking, which results in oxygen deficiency to already injured tissues, also, it can deplete tile Vitamin C supply in your body and should be increased. Smoking is not recommended for 4-6 weeks after a traumatic injury.
References: Chiropractic Health and Rehabilitation Group. P.C. Copyright @ 1996 Langlitz Krames Communications @ 1989, 1991. Randanov BP, et al. Long-term outcome after whiplash injury: a two-year follow-up considering features of injury mechanism and somatic, radiologic and psychosocial factor. Medicine 74(5):281-297, 1995. Randanov BP, et al. The role of psychological stress in recovery from common whiplash. Lancet 338: 712-715, 1991. Nordhoff, L.S. Motor Vehicle Collision Injured. Mechanism. Diagnosis and Management. @1996, Aspen Publishers, Inc. Melton MR. The complete guide to whiplash. Body-Mind Publications @1998 Balch PA, Balch JF. @ 1997. Avery Publishing Group.