Whiplash. It’s more than a pain in the neck!
When you hear the term whiplash, which was coined from the end of a bullwhip snapping, many people make jokes about it. It is no joke, especially if you have suffered from this type of accident. Studies indicate that 22% of the whiplash victims will never recover and 10% will experience severe debilitating constant neck pain. Although there are side-lash injuries, front end trauma, and rollovers, I will focus on the classic rear end accident.
Using crash dummies it has been determined that the first trauma on impact is actually to the lower seat transferring to the occupant’s lower back. The estimate of lower back pain is 42-57% following a motor vehicle accident (MVA). A shock wave is then sent up the spine, elongating the neck on average of 3 ½” and then causing hyperextension/hyperflexion (violently whipping the head backwards then forwards beyond its limits) It is estimated that the head is whipped an average of 2 ½ times the speed of the striking vehicle. Thus if you are hit at 20 MPH, your head is whipped at 50 MPH.
When soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, discs, and tendons) are stretched in excess of the elasticity, damage will occur and one should keep in mind the comments of the foremost expert in whiplash, Dr. Ruth Jackson, when she stated “Healing of ligamentous structures takes place by the formation of scar tissue. Therefore, sprains result in some degree of permanent injury.”
Not only does the occupant experience injury to the spinal structures, adjacent damage is quite frequent. Problems such as neck pain, reduced neck mobility, headaches, blurred vision (found in 20% of the cases), dizziness, nausea, neck and upper back muscle pain, jaw joint pain, low back pain, and numbness down the arms are common post- whiplash symptoms according to Jackson.
A few things to consider regarding MVAs:
1. There is no relationship to the amount of damage to the car and the amount of damage to the passenger…steel vs flesh and blood.
2. 81% of all injuries occur at speeds under 30 MPH
3. Women are injured in 42% of the accidents, men in 21%
4. Driving phobias and anxiety are not uncommon following an MVA
Now, the solution. Two British orthopaedists extensively examined the efficacy (effectiveness) of chiropractic care for whiplash. The patients in this study were considered ‘moderate to severe’ and the success rate was a stunning 93% (Injury 27 (9) 1996)
Upper Cervical care is based on the premise that the structurally weakest area in the human spine is the most mobile area, the upper two spinal segments, called atlas and axis. Because these segments do not have the locking mechanism of the segments below, a hard force directed through that region is likely to displace the segment(s), damage the soft tissue, and lock the vertebrae in the wrong position.
Blair Upper Cervical care precisely analyses the exact position the injured spine has displaced by some very unique x-rays of the atlas taken through the sinuses and 3-D x-rays to see the spine in depth.
Once an examination to ascertain the extent of the full body damage sustained in the accident has been performed and the appropriate x- rays are taken, a program of care in instituted to try to get the patient as far back to their pre-injury status as possible. This will consist of very accurate, painless, non-twisting corrections to reposition the injured segments back into their proper position. If the soft tissue damage is extensive, the segment will likely not remain in the correct position very long (which is the ultimate objective of Upper Cervical Care…holding is healing) and repeated corrections will be needed. Follow your chiropractor’s advice and don’t shortcut your care.
Probably 9 out of 10 of my new patients will tell me, “I’ve never been the same since the accident.” Fix if early and keep it fixed!
This post appeared first on the Blair Chiropractic Society’s website.