Chiropractic Care for Whiplash
Each year about 2 million Americans suffer whiplash injuries. Whiplash usually refers to neck injuries that are often caused by a sudden movement of your head forward, backward, or sideways. Whiplash injury is common in people who are involved in auto accidents but can still occur from work injuries, slips and falls, sports injuries, and other incidents. The condition is characterized by a sharp pain when you try to turn your head on the onset. Primarily, whiplash affects the neck muscles, but it may involve injured tendons or broken bones in severe cases. Unfortunately, most individuals are not aware that chiropractic care is extremely beneficial to anyone suffering from whiplash.
T98 chiropractors can help a patient suffering from the short and long-term effects of whiplash. The sooner you visit a chiropractic clinic, the better with whiplash injuries. Unlike using pain meds, chiropractors address the root cause of the pain. These professionals will assess how much pain you are experiencing and then evaluate the damage extent using diagnostic imaging. By addressing the root cause, the body recovers much faster than masking the pain symptoms with medications. Additionally, T98 chiropractors also provide various non-surgical treatment options that allow you to get back on your feet within a short time.
How Does a Chiropractor Diagnose a Whiplash Injury?
Once you visit a chiropractor to address the neck pain following a trauma, the chiropractor will evaluate your spine as a whole. Examining the entire range will enable the professional to find other spine regions affected during the accident. This will also help them identify any intervertebral disc injuries, restricted joint motion, ligament injuries, and muscle spasms. The chiropractors use various evaluation techniques such as motion and static palpation.
The professional will also evaluate how you walk, your posture, and spinal alignment. The evaluation will help the patient understand any problem with their spine alignment and its muscles.
The Process of Diagnosing Whiplash
The diagnosis starts when the patient reports neck pain after a motor vehicle accident. When the patient steps into the chiropractic clinic, the chiropractor usually examines various things to determine the problem’s root cause. As mentioned, the injuries differ from one patient to the other. Therefore, the chiropractor comes up with a customized plan for each of their patients. Nevertheless, the following steps are likely to occur when you step into our T98 chiropractic clinic.
Collect the Patient History
The chiropractor will perform a complete patient history collection. They start by gathering a full medical background, including pre-existing conditions, previous injuries, medications, and family history. Some of the likely common questions to expect from the chiropractor include:
- How was your neck injured?
- Were you involved in a car accident?
- When did the pain/symptoms start?
- Did the pain begin immediately after the accident, or did it manifest after hours or days?
- Where are you experiencing the pain, and how can you rate the pain, mild or severe?
- Is the pain constant, or does it come or goes?
- Does the pain radiate down to your shoulders and hands?
Depending on how you answer these questions, the chiropractor may ask other questions to get the relevant information regarding your specific situation and symptoms.
Physical Exam for Whiplash
After taking the complete history, the chiropractor will proceed to do a physical examination. The process starts with observation. Here the chiropractor will observe your posture and neck and check for any misalignment and other abnormalities. He /she will feel the various sections of your neck to find any tightness or tenderness. The chiropractor will also check your neck range of motion in rotation and movements up, down, and side-to-side.
If the chiropractor finds any symptoms that suggest the possibility of nerve irritation that results in tingling, pain, and weakness that radiate into your shoulder, the chiropractor might do other in-office tests. These include:
With the help of a rubber hammer tool, the chiropractor will test whether the neck nerves are sending the right signals to your forearm, triceps, and biceps.
This test is done to see whether your arms, shoulders, and hands have any significant weakness.
The chiropractor will also perform a test to see where the abnormal sensations are experienced. For instance, if you feel a tingling in your pinky instead of the thumb, this information will help the professional to narrow down where the pain is arising.
After the detailed physical exam, the chiropractor will have gathered enough information on where to start on the treatment. The professional may also perform another diagnostic test to find the exact root cause. He/she may order diagnostic imaging when he/she suspects a neurological problem or fracture. Some of the diagnostic imaging options include;
Also referred to as radiograph, X-ray imaging shows the bones structure. This can help in identifying the fracture’s location.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a more detailed scan showing both the soft tissues and bones. The bones might not be as clear as the X-ray scan, but the MRI shows the potential damage to your soft tissues like the ligaments, muscles, and intervertebral discs.
A computed tomography (CT) uses x rays to bring a more precise image with a computer. CT scan will give a better picture of the neck structure and help the chiropractor see any fracture or soft tissue damage.
A bone scan is often avoided due to high radiation and cost. However, the chiropractor can still order for one, especially when they suspect a tiny fracture.
The main objective for performing the test is to find the root cause of the pain. The chiropractor may follow each of the above steps or just some. Once he/she has pinpointed the root cause, they can then begin the treatment process.
Stages of Whiplash Treatment
Just like any other injuries, whiplash injuries occur in several phases. The first is the acute phase, which occurs immediately after the accident. During this phase, T98 chiropractors work to reduce inflation using various therapies such as ultrasound. They also make use of manual therapy techniques and gentle stretching treatment. The chiropractor may also recommend using light neck support or applying an ice pack on the neck.
After the inflation has subsided significantly, the chiropractor will perform various chiropractic techniques such as spinal manipulation to try restoring your neck’s normal motion.
Chiropractic Treatments for Whiplash
Chiropractic treatment for whiplash often depends on your whiplash injury severity. As such, it is not possible to generalize the chiropractic whiplash treatment. The suitable chiropractic treatment is different in each case and is determined by the primary dysfunctions found during the evaluation. Some individuals have minor whiplash symptoms, which may go away after a few days. On the other hand, the symptoms may become varied and chronic over a short time, causing severe pain to cognitive problems.
The whiplash symptoms may manifest immediately after a car accident or take hours or even days before they appear. Some underlying conditions, such as degenerative muscles pre-existing before the accident, may also worsen the condition. Because of the varied complexity, T98 Rehab’s chiropractors develop a customized approach to deal with each case. Before looking at the various whiplash treatments, lets us begin with the common whiplash symptoms.
Neck pain is the main whiplash injury symptom. The pain could range from mild to severe. You may experience the pain in one area, general area, or pain that radiates down the shoulder into your arm. The pain is caused by muscle strain, ligament sprains, and injuries to nerves, discs, joints, and bones.
Neck stiffness is quite common. While bad sleeping posture is the main culprit, it could also indicate that you suffered a whiplash injury after a car accident. The symptom is characterized by reduced neck movement. Neck stiffness could be because of muscle tightening, pain, or joint mechanical problems.
Whiplash injuries may cause muscle tightening or joint injury in the cervical spine. This could irritate the nerves, causing headaches and migraines.
Generally, your neck offers substantial support to your head. However, if you feel some instability, such as a sharp pain when you position your head in a particular manner, it means that the neck muscles have a problem. This often results from tearing or overstretching of ligaments.
Upper back pain and/or shoulder pain
When the soft tissues in the neck are strained or torn, your nerves get irritated. This could lead to a sharp pain not only in your neck but also in your shoulders, upper and middle back pain.
Radiating Tingling, Numbness, or Weakness
Additionally, whiplash could also compress or cause inflammation in the neck’s spinal nerve root. When this occurs, it could lead to a variety of cervical radiculopathy symptoms such as weakness, tingling, and numbness radiating down to your shoulders, arm, and fingers. Cervical radiculopathy is experienced on one side of the body in most cases, but there a sare mall percentage where you can feel it on both sides of your body.
Other Whiplash Symptoms and Associated Disorders
- Dizziness that could be from a concussion or neck instability
- Blurry vision or other visual problems
- Emotional changes such as becoming more anxious, irritable, or even depressed
- Problems getting a good night’s sleep
- Ringing or buzzing in one or both ears
- Problems speaking, chewing, or chewing
- Concentration and/or memory problems
Chiropractic Whiplash Treatments
As mentioned, the chiropractic whiplash treatment will depend on the whiplash injury severity. Spinal manipulation and adjustments are the most common techniques, which aim at restoring the right spine alignment. Spinal manipulation and adjustments will relieve stress on specific muscles and help recover any torn ligaments. The standard spinal manipulation techniques include;
Flexion-distraction is a manual hand-on technique, which involves using a gentle, slow pumping action on the disc. Instead of directly applying the force on the spine, the chiropractor uses a non-trusting type of spinal manipulation technique. This technique will help in treating the herniated disk. In some cases, the whiplash injuries aggravate a bulging or herniated disc. The method helps in the speedy recovery of the herniated disc and other torn muscles.
Instrument Assisted Manipulation
Instrument assisted manipulation is another non-thrusting spinal manipulation technique. The chiropractor uses a unique handheld instrument to apply force without thrusting into the spine. This will helps to protect the spine integrity. Most often, the technique is used for elderly patients suffering from degenerative joint syndrome.
Specific Spinal Manipulation
Here the chiropractor will identify spinal joints with restricted or abnormal motion. The technique usually assists the chiropractor to restore movement to the affected joint. The chiropractor uses a gentle thrusting technique to stretch the soft tissues. Specific spinal manipulation will stimulate your nervous system, restoring the normal motion to your spine.Besides spinal manipulation, chiropractors also make use of manual therapies to treat the injured muscles and ligaments. Some of the standard manual therapies include;
Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Therapy
T98 Rehab chiropractors also use Garston techniques, which involve using a specialized instrument to treat the soft tissue. The professional will make gentle, repeated strokes using the device on the injured area. Instrument assisted soft tissue therapy will help stimulate the region and promote blood circulation in the affected area.
Manual Joint Stretching
Just as the name indicates, a manual joint stretching involves applying a gentle force to the affected area. Manual joint stretching enables the muscles to get back into the original position. The resistance techniques also allow the nervous system to kick in and heal the injured ligaments and tendons.
A therapeutic massage also helps in easing the tension in your neck’s muscles. Therapeutic massage will also promote blood circulation in your neck. Therapeutic massage will help the irritated nerves and torn soft tissues to heal much faster.
Trigger Point Therapy
The chiropractor usually identifies the neck’s tight, painful areas by using his/her fingers to exert pressure on these specific regions. Trigger point therapy will help to alleviate muscle tension as well as promoting proper blood circulation.
Muscle Relaxation or Stimulation as Whiplash Treatments
To ensure a speedy recovery, the chiropractor may also use other therapies like the “heat and cold therapy” to reduce the inflammation caused by whiplash injuries. The muscle relaxation or stimulation techniques use gentle stretches to release the tension or contraction that may restrict blood circulation. Here, the chiropractor uses an instrument on the trigger point to help relieve the pain associated with tight muscles. Some of the standard therapies that help in reducing the inflammation, pain, and tightness include:
Ultrasound helps in increasing the blood circulation to your muscles and tendons. Promoting proper blood circulation in specific areas helps in decreasing muscle spasms, pain, and neck spasms. Ultrasound involved sending sound waves into the muscle tissues. The process creates a gentle heat, which helps in relieving pressure on the muscles, increasing circulation.
Interferential Electrical Stimulation
Tense muscles limit blood circulation. This technique makes use of a low-frequency electrical current that helps in stimulating and relaxing the muscles. Interferential electrical stimulation will not only increase blood circulation but also reduce inflammation.
McKenzie Exercises and Sensorimotor Activities
T98 chiropractors also employ other various sensorimotor exercise and stabilization techniques to help treat whiplash injuries. McKenzie is one of the regular exercises that help in reducing disc derangement. The activity involves simple movements that are done in the office by the chiropractor. These exercises can also be done at home by the patient. McKenzie exercises will help them take an active role in their recovery. Sensorimotor and stabilization exercises help in correcting the faulty movement in everyday activities. These exercises help to train the nervous system on how to coordinate and control movement patterns better. These exercises will reinforce the neck, improving its ability to stabilize the neck. Each of these exercises plays a significant role in restoring your neck’s proper functioning after a substantial trauma.
The prognosis for Whiplash Patients
Generally, whiplash patients recover within 3-4 months. However, just like any other condition, there is a possible whiplash related risk factor that could indicate a longer recovery time. These include:
Severe Pain During the Impact
If an individual experiences acute pain immediately after the accident, this can indicate more severe damage.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Accidents are an unpleasant experience. While people react differently, post-traumatic stress disorders often affect the recovery process. The chiropractors offer some advice on how to deal with the stress as it could result in trouble sleeping or the development of depression.
When we get older, our body becomes weak. A young person tends to recover faster than an older adult or senior does. This is because older people tend to have more degeneration and pre-existing condition, which could worsen the whiplash injuries.
Generally, women have a smaller neck structure. Having a smaller neck could mean weaker muscles in the neck. Weaker muscles are more susceptible to whiplash injuries and may take a longer time to recover.
T98 Rehab Chiropractic and Wellness Summary
Chiropractic care following a whiplash is critical. T98 Rehab chiropractors use a variety of techniques to help restore the neck’s range of motion. They also help you do strengthening and postural exercises that help restore the strength of injured soft tissues. Chiropractic care will also help to restore the routine postural alignments to your body. Chiropractic whiplash care is safe, effective, and non-surgical. This makes it a cost-effective approach to get back to your feet and enjoy your life.