I survived this car accident after being hit head on by a drunk driver at 65 MPH. Whiplash was only one of the conditions I incurred.
Immediately following an accident it might not sound to appetizing to go to a chiropractor, so you may be asking yourself, “Can a chiropractor help with whiplash?”
If you’ve ever suffered the soft tissue injuries and neck pain associated with whiplash, then you already know it’s no picnic. It’s not hard to see why either.
“Whiplash” itself is a non-medical term for an acceleration-deceleration injury caused by a sudden violent movement of the neck and head backward and forward from trauma such a car accident. Such a collision and subsequent injury can add up to considerable damage to the ligaments, joints, muscles and soft tissue that support the head and neck or entire spine.
Depending on the logistics of the accident there are numerous injuries that can occur. Whiplash can be very serious. It is capable of causing damage to intervertebral discs, breaking bones and severely injuring the brain. Head injuries such as ‘mild traumatic brain injuries’ (TBI) are common. After the accident to the right, my brain injuries were profound. One of the early questions people ask when seeking out treatment for whiplash is…
The short answer is… yes but it depends. Here is what you need to know…
The body’s reflexive response to such injury is often immobilization of the area in order to minimize additional damage (this is referred to as muscle splinting). Spinal joints can become stiff and highly limited in movement, even to the point of being totally fixed in place. This can result in decreased range of motion, blurred vision, sometimes debilitating pain, muscle spasms, dizziness, and numbness in the arms and hands.
One of the most common complaints after a whiplash injury is fatigue.
The body and brain were injured and a tremendous amount of energy goes towards healing itself…which doesn’t leave much energy left for you!
Whiplash neck trauma is actually under-diagnosed to a great extent. It’s also under-treated in many cases. Many doctors’ approach begins and ends with the prescription of pain medication, which really only masks the problem. However, a good chiropractor should be capable of more.
Chiropractic Treatments for Whiplash Injury
The most important thing to do in managing an injury after a car accident (or any other form of whiplash injury- such as a sports injury) is to rule out all the red flag conditions such as:
Fractures or dislocations
This is usually done at the emergency room following the accident or by the first responders which may be the fire department or EMT’s (Emergency Medical Technicians).
When in doubt, play it safe and get checked thoroughly. Many times the person who has been injured is in a semi-state of shock and the adrenaline can mask the pain.
The first order of business for your chiropractor after the red flags have been ruled out when it comes to the treatment of a whiplash injury is to get your immobilized spinal joints and neck muscles rehabilitated.
Many times it’s a slow and strategic process. From there, it’s all about getting the spine back into alignment to help facilitate healing and restore function as close to pre-accident status as possible. In fact, the main point of focus for a chiropractor treating whiplash is going to be to assess the entire spinal column and extremities by way of a combination of non-force techniques at the beginning.
However, he or she will only proceed with this part of the treatment once the soft tissues and surrounding muscles have been properly stabilized. While the muscles are going through this process, the chiropractor will concentrate on assisting the body to heal by seeking to reduce swelling and inflammation that can exacerbate the problem. Ice treatments or even massage therapy may all be part of the treatment protocol. Many times a TENS unit can be prescribed or a cervical collar to ease the burden of the neck holding up the head.
At our clinic in Denver we use the following in the initial stages of treatment of a whiplash injury:
Class IV Laser
All-natural trigger point injections with Sarapin
All-natural anti-inflammatory supplements (We use an oral and a topical protocols to relieve swelling and inflammation)
Gentle non-force adjusting with the ProAdjuster (a computerized adjusting instrument)
Home support such as a cervical pillow or bracing
The last thing you want to have happen is a whiplash injury that gets worse with the treatment that’s supposed to make it better! The above listed treatments are only options. The best treatment for whiplash is the one that’s most appropriate.
Each patient must be assessed individually and the care must be given according to the stage of injury. I wouldn’t recommend the same care at week 8 that I would recommend on day 8 after the accident.
Chiropractic treatment of whiplash should not be a one-dimensional process. In order to get a feel for which exact course of treatment is best for you, your doctor should assess your entire body, not just the symptomatic areas, as opposed to just the cervical vertebrae in your aching neck. When and if warranted manual chiropractic manipulation may help restore normal joint integrity and motion. This may be done in tandem with a strategic array of therapeutic or stretching maneuvers.
The Benefits of Chiropractic Whiplash Treatment
Chiropractic treatment for whiplash can be beneficial in that it’s non-invasive and holistic, making it the perfect option for people who prefer natural, conservative courses of treatment It should be highly individualized and most importantly…effective. The whiplash treatment center in our office provides integrated medical techniques along with physical therapy. The last thing someone wants do to is to be running all over town, while driving to go to different doctors and therapists.
If handled appropriately, a chiropractor can help tremendously with whiplash injuries. Although it can be tough going at first, with proper care and time, you are are bound to be surprised at how much your quality of life improves.
So, in general, when you ask if a chiropractor can help with whiplash, I say, “Yes… but it depends.”