What Is Whiplash?
Whiplash and whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) represent a range of injuries to the neck caused by or related to a sudden distortion of the neck associated with extension.
This phenomenon is commonly associated with motor vehicle accidents usually when the vehicle has been hit in the rear; however, the injury can be sustained in many other ways, including falls from stools, bicycles, or horses. It stands out as one of the main injuries covered by the car insurers.
Whiplash is a nonmedical term used to describe neck pain following an injury to the soft tissues of your neck (specifically ligaments, tendons, and muscles). It is caused by an abnormal motion or force applied to your neck that causes movement beyond the neck’s normal range of motion.
Terms for Whiplash
The term whiplash was first used in 1928, and despite its replacement by synonyms (such as acceleration flexion-extension neck injury and soft tissue cervical hyperextension injury), it continues to be used to describe this common soft tissue neck injury. Your doctor may use the more specific terms of cervical sprain, cervical strain, or hyperextension injury.
Whiplash is an Easy to Miss Injury
One of the most common injuries from a motor vehicle collision is one that isn’t immediately obvious, and that’s whiplash. There are more than 100,000 whiplash cases in Canada each year, and most of those occur from automobile collisions when the force of impact thrusts the head back and forth. The problem is that many people will wake up the next day and think they just have a stiff neck, when they could have torn muscles and stretched ligaments in their neck.
These signs and symptoms of whiplash may occur immediately or minutes to hours after the initial injury. The sooner after the injury that symptoms begin to develop the greater the chance you have sustained serious damage. Symptoms of whiplash include, but are not limited to:
- Neck pain
- Neck swelling
- Tenderness along the back of your neck
- Muscle spasms (in the side or back of your neck)
- Difficulty moving your neck around
- Pain shooting from your neck into either shoulder or arm
- Shoulder pain & stiffness
- Jaw pain (TMJ)
- Arm pain
- Arm weakness
- Visual disturbances
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Back pain
There are no guidelines for preventing whiplash because it often occurs due to an unexpected event. If you have a weak neck due to another medical condition, you may need to avoid certain activities or wear a cervical collar in certain situations. If you suspect your neck is weak, you should strengthen it now to help prevent more significant damage if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident.
Generally, wearing a seat belt and avoiding motion that causes sudden jerking of the head can prevent this injury. Chiropractors can recommend diet and exercise techniques to reduce stress and tension.
Careful, defensive driving, wearing seatbelts, and using padded automobile headrests can lessen the likelihood of whiplash. Head restraints on car seats may prevent some whiplash injuries. They may stop the head from jolting backwards in a car crash.
However, you can protect yourself and your neck every time you get in the car. Wear your seat belt correctly and wear it in every car ride.
Also, adjust your car to ensure optimum safety by checking that the headrest is not too low—the top of the headrest should be even with the upper tips of your ears, and must be close enough to stop your head from moving too far (about two inches). A seat reclined back too far will increase this distance, as will poor posture.
In 2007, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that two-thirds of all SUVs, pick-up trucks, and minivans did not offer adequate protection against whiplash. They reported that in some pick-ups especially, the headrests couldn’t be adjusted enough to provide the right kind of support during a crash. Before buying a new car, truck, or van, do your research to make sure that you’re getting the best protection for your neck.
Aside from car accidents, whiplash often happens in sports injuries. If you play sports, especially contact sports like football, always make sure you wear the proper protective equipment.
Multi-Cervical Unit (MCU) is a state-of-the-art neck rehab machine. Our chiropractors in Calgary measure the strength of your neck with this machine in 16 different directions and compare your results with normal results for your gender. If you are weak and unbalanced, a short plan of rehab prescribed specifically for you will return your neck muscle strength to normal limits. This will reduce the muscle spasm, increase blood flow, and restore normal biomechanical movement, in turn taking stress off other tissues. And, while it doesn’t work for everyone, most people will get a dramatic reduction in pain dramatically. And, while it doesn’t work for everyone, most people will get a dramatic reduction in pain.
If your whiplash injury was more severe and you are now suffering from a herniated disc in your neck causing severe neck pain (possibly also pinching a nerve causing arm pain also), our clinic in Calgary has the first DRX 9000C Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression Machine (for treating herniated discs in the neck) in Canada. With the DRX 9000C, our chiropractors are able to target an injured disc and draw fluids and nutrients into the disc to stimulate healing. While not everyone gets better, the average person experiences a 90% reduction in pain, according to a recent study by medical researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
For more acute (recent) injuries, Cold Laser Therapy is often effective. Cold Laser Therapy, or low level laser therapy, is a painless application of laser light energy which penetrates deep into the injured tissues, where the light energy is absorbed and converted to bio-chemical energy which is used as a catalyst to speed up the chemical reactions occurring in the cells. This speeds up healing, reduces inflammation, and relieves pain – a very effective whiplash treatment option at our clinic in Calgary.
Call Alberta Back and Neck Rehab & Sports Injuries Clinic in Calgary for an MCU consultation to see if your neck is weak or unbalanced, and to find out if we can help you get strong and feel better. If you are in acute pain, call to see if Cold Laser Therapy may benefit you. Or if a disc herniation is the cause of your pain, DRX Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression may be the solution to your neck pain. Call for a consultation today!