Whiplash is an injury to the spine commonly sustained in a car accident. It is the result of being suddenly thrown forward-and-backward, or from side-to-side. During a collision, the neck is hyperextended, which can cause dysfunction all the way down the spine. Damage to the body can occur even in minor fender benders where the vehicle escaped without a dent.
Signs and Symptoms of Whiplash
In a collision, damage may occur to the spine’s hardware – the bones, joints and discs; or to the soft tissue – the nerves, ligaments, tendons and muscles. The spinal cord is key to a properly functioning body. Damage to the spine may cause dozens of disorders that fall under the definition of whiplash. The most common symptoms include:
- Neck stiffness or pain
- Back pain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Aching shoulders
- Ringing ears (tinnitus)
- Leg pain (sciatica)
- Concussion (traumatic brain injury)
Whiplash Symptoms May Be Delayed
Immediately after a collision, the people involved may feel fine. However, under the surface, all may not be well. If the soft tissue was torn, an inflammatory reaction will build over time. The spine’s hardware may be jostled out of position, setting the stage for spinal arthritis that make take years to announce its presence. Insurance companies may urge a quick settlement, but it’s best to wait until after a chiropractic evaluation before signing away your rights. People fare differently in an accident, depending on where they were situated in the car, health status, age, and so on. Don’t make the mistake of self-evaluating based on the other occupants’ condition. Drivers of newer cars benefit from state-of-the-art airbags, seatbelts and headrests, but can still suffer unseen inertial injuries, and should not delay a chiropractic consultation.
How Does Whiplash Heal?
The body’s healing reaction will begin immediately after the car accident.
First, there is the inflammatory phase, which is marked by pain and swelling. Next, there is repair and regeneration, a process which may take up to 2 months. In this phase, the body forms scar tissue on the damaged areas. Finally, there is remodeling, where the body tries to remake the scar tissue in the original tissue’s image. Healing duration varies according to the degree of injury and the overall health of the individual. Patients can accelerate healing by paying attention to:
- Quality of sleep
- Stress management
- Positive outlook
Why See a Chiropractor for Car Accident Injury?
Doctors of chiropractic have the training required to detect anomalies in the spine’s structure that may go unnoticed by other healthcare professionals. In chiropractic terms, these spinal misalignments are called “vertebral subluxations.” Uncorrected, they can lead to incorrect healing and chronic pain.