Whiplash injuries: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Centreville VA

Whiplash is described as an injury to the neck due to sudden rapid forward and backward motion resulting from trauma; which is car accident in most of the cases, but may also occur due to falls, sport related injuries or knock over head by a heavy object.

This sudden over-extension of the head and neck impacts the muscles and ligaments causing stretching and probable tearing of neck tissues. Whiplash may also involve tearing, bulging or rupture of the vertebral discs or may also cause vertebral dislocation. It may also affect the spinal cord and nerve roots passing through the space between vertebras, which may develop irritation or stretch or get pinched because of the reduced gap in between the vertebra.

Symptoms of Whiplash injuries

The most common presentation of whiplash injury is neck pain, which occurs immediately after injury or may take many hours or days before it sets in. Whiplash injuries usually present with following symptoms:

  • Neck and upper back pain and restricted movements of the neck. The muscles in the neck may feel
    knotted and hard to touch.
  • Pain felt on sideways, front and backward movement of the head.
  • Pain in shoulders and arms.
  • Tingling sensation or numbness in the hands and arms.
  • Muscle spasms and neck muscles are tender to touch.
  • Headaches, often starting from base of skull and radiating towards forehead.
  • Jaw pain.
  • Nausea, ringing in ears( Tinnitus), dizziness and blurred vision.
  • Chronic whiplash injury that has stayed untreated may present with symptoms such as irritability, memory loss, depression and poor concentration.

Treatment of whiplash injuries

Treatment of whiplash injuries in conventional or mainstream medical system usually involves frequent icing of the neck, pain medications, wearing a neck collar or brace and surgery in more severe or complicated cases. But these pain medications have several adverse effects and they do not treat the cause of the pain. Similarly, there are other additional options like physiotherapy and Message therapy that help in reducing muscle spasms and pain . On the contrary chiropractor works on the principle of holistic healing and see the person as a whole and not only one painful part of the body, thus chiropractic carechiropractic care is an effective alternative treatment for whiplash injuries.

Treatment in chiropractic starts with diagnosis of the extent of the injury. First step is examination of the whole spine using Static or Motion Palpation(Touch Techniques) aimed to identify any restricted movement, ligament or intervertebral disc injury or muscle spasms. A chiropractor also inspects the gait, posture and spinal alignment to understand the body mechanics of the person and how it has been affected by whiplash injury. Chiropractor may take assistance of more advanced diagnostic techniques such as X-rays or MRI to see for any existing degenerative conditions of vertebra. In light of the results of these evaluations, chiropractor chalks out a Treatment plan for whiplash injury.

A chiropractor care plan in whiplash injuries usually comprises of two phases:

  • Initial phase to decrease inflammation (soreness) of the neck muscles.
  • Later phase to restore normal movements of the cervical joints in the neck.

Whiplash Injury initial phase

Various modalities used to decreases inflammation of neck muscles include:

  • Manual massage: your chiropractor may do therapeutic massage to decrease the muscle tension in the neck.
  • Specific trigger point therapy:In this technique, chiropractor first pinpoints the specific tense, painful areas of the muscle using her or her fingers and then applies direct pressure over these points to relieve muscle tension.
  • Electrical muscle stimulation: In this technique, a low frequency electrical current is used to provide stimulation to muscles that helps in reducing inflammation of these muscles.
  • Ultrasound: Ultrasound in chiropractic works by sending sound waves of a specific wavelength to deep points in muscles, generating mild heat that increases blood circulation. In whiplash injuries, increased blood circulation in the neck area through use of ultrasound results in a reduction of muscle spasm and inflammation.

Whiplash Injury recovery phase

In the later stage, chiropractor uses measures to treat the soft tissue injuries (muscles, ligaments) as well as vertebral joint injuries like subluxation and herniation of discs.

For soft tissue injuries,techniques used are termed together as Manual Therapy, which include:

  • Instrument-assisted soft tissue therapy: In this technique, also called Graston Technique, an instrument is used to apply gentle strokes over injured to heal soft tissues injuries.
  • Muscle energy therapy uses manual joint stretching and resistance techniques for healing soft tissue damage.

Other techniques used are termed as Spinal Manipulation techniques, which include:

  • Flexion-distraction technique: This technique is used for treating herniated discs after whiplash injury. Chiropractor uses a gentle, slow-pumping motion on the bulging or herniated discs instead of applying direct pressure on spine.
  • Instrument-assisted manipulation: In older patients with pre-existing joint degeneration disease, a specialized hand held instrument is used to apply mild pressure avoiding a forceful thrust.
  • Spinal manipulation for subluxations: If chiropractor detects restricted spinal joints movement or subluxations( abnormal motion of spinal joints); specific spinal manipulation techniques are used for stretching soft tissue and stimulation of nervous system to re-establish normal movements of spinal joints.

In addition, a chiropractor may also advice you exercises to ease the whiplash symptoms and to restore normal spinal movements.