Whiplash is the result of the body moving rapidly forward and backward or side to side from a sudden force in such a way that the muscles and ligaments around the joints are strained or sprained. Usually the tears in the tissues occur as hundreds of microtraumas that spread across multiple joints and affect a large area of the spine. The damage to the vehicle is not always an indication of the severity of the injury, often low impact collisions are not enough for the vehicle to crumple and so transfer the collision forces into the person’s body instead. But whether whiplash is minor or severe, complete recovery is essential to prevent the development of chronic pain.
Loss of Cervical Curve
One of the most common results of a whiplash injury is the loss or reversal of the cervical lordosis. We have a natural curve in the cervical spine which is critical for normal motion and acts as a shock absorber for axial (load bearing) forces involved in normal activities of daily living. When the cervical curve has been compromised there is an increased chance for chronic neck pain and headaches. This is because the muscles have to work harder, the joints absorb more forces from the weight of the head, the angle of articulation between the joints in the neck is no longer optimal and there is a higher predisposition for arthritic changes in the future.
Occasionally the tearing of ligaments in the spine is bad enough to become permanently loose and develop spinal instability called spondylolisthesis. This instability can lead to headaches, muscle tension, neuropathy in the upper extremity, and inflammation in the surrounding tissues. Diagnosing spinal instability is best done with xrays in flexion, extension and lateral flexion.
The immediate treatment should be ice and chiropractic adjustments to reduce inflammation and address any problems with alignment. The sooner these two treatments are employed the better the outcome for recovery. Application of heat in the first few days will aggravate whiplash and should be avoided. The next phase of treatment should include gentle stretching and massage to reduce muscle tension and encourage proper healing. Finally, strengthening exercises should be prescribed to stabilize the traumatized area and re-engage the muscles for optimal function. Talk to your chiropractor today to discuss treatment for your phase of recovery.
Take the first step towards relief and contact the santa rosa chiropractic office of Dr. Douglass Toth today for more information. We’ll set you up with an exam and begin work towards treating your whiplash symptoms so you’ll be back to normal in no time at all.