There are many treatments for the whiplash injury and other conditions that cause pain after car accidents.
What is Whiplash?
There are many types of injuries that can occur as a result of a car accident. That is why it is important to seek help from a healthcare professional, even if the accident seemed minor, and especially if there was a blow to the head. The spinal column is most often injured in these types of accidents. Neck and back injuries include damage to the discs, ligament and muscle sprains and strains, headaches, and whiplash, which is a neck injury.1 Symptoms of whiplash can include related conditions, such as disc herniation and joint dysfunction. Pain and restricted range of motion could result from the associated joint dysfunction. Herniated discs might lead to symptoms of “sharp, shooting pain down the arm” or even “numbness, tingling and muscle weakness”, which are neurological symptoms.2 Research has shown that only milliseconds after the accident “ the cervical spine undergoes what is called an S-shaped curve”, where the upper part is bent forward (flexion) while the lower part is bent backward (extension). The muscles of the cervical spine contract to minimize the damage. If this stabilization response is not effective, then treatment is necessary to deal with the pain and injury that result from the whiplash symptoms.3
Chiropractors can treat whiplash injuries with manipulation, exercises, muscle stimulation, muscle relaxation, and lifestyle and ergonomic changes. Spinal manipulation includes either a “short thrust” or a “slow mobilizing movement”. As for the muscles, the chiropractor can use gentle stretches or even trigger point pressure to assist with the tightness. Some chiropractors may utilize exercises, such as McKenzie exercises, to “reduce disc derangement”. McKenzie exercises are helpful in that the patients can learn to do them at home and participate actively in recovery. Stress reduction and ergonomic suggestions also benefit the patient when they leave the chiropractic office.4 Massage is another treatment option for patients with whiplash. Practitioners might use “soft-tissue release together with neurologically based approaches”. Whiplash may be categorized by massage therapists as hot (more acute) and cold (more long-term). During hot whiplash, there is inflammation and sensitivity. Massage therapists need to work slowly, with shorter sessions and “small, supportive, calming interventions”. Patients can be taught to use calming breaths to “calm the autonomic responses…and increase proprioception”. While the whiplash is in an inflammatory period, it is important to “restore subtle movement to spastic areas” so as not to aggravate the condition further.5
Learn more about chiropractic care and whiplash.