What is whiplash?
Whiplash and whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) are terms used to describe a range of neck injuries that are related to sudden distortions of the neck. The most common symptom whiplash victims report is pain due to mild muscle strain or minor tearing of soft tissue. Other injuries include nerve damage, disc damage, and in the most severe cases, ruptures of ligaments in the neck and fractures of the cervical vertabrae. Generally, minor whiplash injuries are associated with pain and decreased range of motion in the head and neck. These symptoms usually last only a short time, but occasionally they last longer and include headaches, dizziness, and tingling in the arms. People experiencing whiplash injuries report symptoms that last from a few hours to several years with the vast majority experiencing short-term symptoms of pain. The physical injury to create symptoms of whiplash is uncertain. It is suspected that the biological cause of long-term whiplash symptoms is nerve damage while short-term pain may be a minor strain or sprain.
It is known that people can experience severe crashes with no neck injury if there is little or no movement of the head relative to the torso. Consequently, neck distortion resulting from sudden movement of the head relative to the torso probably explains most whiplash injuries. Hyperextension of the neck, or distortion beyond its normal range of motion, may explain many whiplash injuries, but experimental and field studies suggest that nerve damage and its associated long-term symptoms can occur with milder levels of neck distortion. One hypothesis that explains these nerve injuries is based on damage to the nerves in the joints caused by motion of adjacent neck vertebrae during a crash. Another hypothesis suggests that the nerve damage is caused by fluctuation in spinal fluid pressure arising from neck distortions.
How can Chiropractic Help?
Chiropractic care is a useful way of treating whiplash.
The main treatment a chiropractor would provide would be gentle spinal adjustments and or manipulation to the spine as required to reduce inflammation and irritation to the nervous system.
Massage, stretching and strengthening exercises for neck muscles are based on the specific muscles that are involved.
Relative rest. It is important in the initial phase of treatment to reduce exercise and movements that aggravate the problem to minimum and reduce inflammation, whilst at the same time continuing with other activities that do not affect the condition such as swimmming and other low impact aerobic activities. this is a concept often termed relative rest.
Ice can be applied to the neck to reduce the inflammation. This can be a frozen gel pack or simply a home made ice pack. It is recommended to use the ice for no longer than 10 minutes and to wrap it in a towel so as the ice is not directly in contact with the skin.