When left untreated, whiplash can have profound long term consequences, including pain, loss of motion, even the early onset of arthritis.
Some motor vehicle accident injuries are severe and require immediate life-saving intervention by paramedics or hospital emergency department personnel.
Other injuries, such as whiplash, involve soft tissue damage to the muscles, ligaments and joints of the neck and back. When the forces transmitted during vehicular collision are strong enough to bend and distort steel, the forces are also strong enough to stretch and tear the muscles and ligament attachments in your neck and can sometimes dislocate the neck and upper back joints out of their normal alignment.
Whiplash commonly involves neck strains and sprains — damage to the muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Tendons are the bands of soft tissue that connect muscles to bones, and ligaments connect bones to each other, supporting joints. When trauma to these tissues is intense, tearing will occur in these tissues and is referred to as strain/sprain. Tearing causes various degrees of bleeding and swelling in and around the joints causing scar tissue formation, often accompanied by pain; however, delays in the onset of pain are not uncommon.
When the body sustains trauma, the brain secretes endorphins, dopamine. They act as natural painkillers which can eclipse the pain, sometimes interfering with motor vehicle accident victims seeking prompt medical attention. It is a natural coping mechanism, but it sometimes distorts the extent of the damage and severity of the injury. During the early stages of the healing period pain messages may be interrupted by endorphins, therefore, if there is muscle spasm or movement feels restricted it is prudent to see a chiropractor to determine if the alignment has been shifted.
It is important to have misaligned bones realigned properly so the supporting ligaments don’t heal with the joints out of their juxtaposition as it will impair neck movement, function, and comfort later on.
To diagnose neck strain/sprain, you will need a thorough examination. You may also need X-rays, CT scans, MRI, or other diagnostic tests to rule out other problems like fractures, hemorrhage, concussion, slipped discs, or pinched nerves.
Treatment for Whiplash
Simple strain/sprain without dislocations can sometimes heal on their own. However, if there is a whiplash strain/sprain with dislocation or subluxation (less misaligned than dislocation) the neck will require realignment of the misaligned structures. If the joints haven’t realigned naturally on their own, they should be realigned by your chiropractic physician for optimal recovery.