Last newsletter we discussed what exactly a Whiplash Injury is, how it occurs, common symptoms of Whiplash injuries and factors which determine the severity of the Whiplash Injury. This newsletter, we will discuss the Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention of Whiplash Injuries.
How is Whiplash Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of a whiplash injury is made by taking a detail history of the injury, performing thorough examination and ordering diagnostic tests such as x-rays. The doctor must rely on the patient’s information about the accident. With this in mind, it is important for each patient in the collision to explain all the details they can remember about the accident. The chiropractor will want to have all of the information from all other physicians the patient has seen for the accident.
With regards to Whiplash injuries, there are few other musculoskeletal injuries that have been studied and researched in such detail as this type of injury. Depending on the degree of injury, symptoms and other findings discovered in the physical examination and history, a grading system is often applied which relates to the degree of injury. This grading system is often also used as a guideline to determine the type and length of treatment required, and sometimes the prognosis (what to expect in the future).
The answer is yes. However, x-rays have their limitations. A trained chiropractor can determine if there is a fracture or dislocation of a spinal bone. Additionally, they can look for the classic “straight neck” appearance commonly called “whiplash spine”.
While these findings may assist the doctor in determining an approach to treatment, there are many other structures that cannot be seen on x-rays. These include the discs, nerve roots, muscles, tendons, spinal cord, ligaments, and capsules that surround each joint. Therefore, your doctor relies on the examination findings, and may even order additional diagnostic tests, such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CT (computerized tomography) or NCV (nerve conduction velocity), to see if these structures have also been damaged, and to what extent.
Why does chiropractic treatment help with whiplash injuries?
Whiplash, like other injuries, sets up the following cascade of events:
- An initial injury causes inflammation (swelling) of tissues and pain.
- This results in spasm of the muscles surrounding the injured area.
- As a result of the muscular “bracing”, the joints where these muscles attach stop moving normally, which forces the adjacent joints to move more than they usually should.
- This leads to a loss of the normal range of motion in that area.
- The loss of motion creates more inflammation and pain, and this vicious cycle repeats itself again and again.
Amongst other things, chiropractic treatment focuses on restoring as much normal motion and function as possible to the injured areas. As a result, this vicious cycle is interrupted and healing occurs.
What can I do to get better?
There is often no simple answer. However, following your chiropractor’s recommendations will most likely help a great deal. These will likely include:
- Modifications of your normal daily activities such as work, posture, sleeping, bathing and dressing.
- Instructions to minimize the risk of damaging your spine even further while performing work duties such as sitting, standing, bending, lifting, squatting, and computer use.
- Treatment may initially include the use of ice to help control inflammation, rest, and light range of motion exercises. As the pain decreases, chiropractic adjustments are applied, along with electrical physical therapies, massage therapy, and nutritional supplements. As the healing progresses, stretching and strengthening exercises are recommended at the appropriate timing to further strengthen those injured and weakened tissues.
There is a very specific sequence of therapy and it is important that your chiropractic monitor your progress so that these therapies can be introduced in the best and most efficient manner to ensure your tissues heal properly and strong. This will help to minimize future problems from the whiplash injury.
Chiropractors are well- known for helping patients overcome the injuries in whiplash – and not just for the relief of pain, but for maximum restoration of lost function. If you’ve been in an accident and think you think you might have whiplash, no matter how minor, schedule a chiropractic appointment. You’ll be glad you did! The sooner you seek treatment, the better the outcome!