Fender-Benders: Worry About Your Neck, Not Your Bumper!

Your head sits atop of your neck like an upright pendulum.  Without notice, a car slams into your rear bumper. Your head extends forward, then immediately backward as your neck compensates for the sudden movement. In this split second, the ligaments, tendons, and nerves in your neck can all be torn instantaneously.  Occurrences like this happen thousands of times each day.  Even after all the paperwork has been accounted for and the car has been fixed, whiplash still remains.

Car accidents are one of the many causes of whiplash; other cases may be a result of sports injuries, or a serious fall.  However, with an abundance of motorists on the road each year, the risk of being in a whiplash-related accident is a high probability.  The slightest impact in a car can result in neck and cervical distress.  “An 8mph car collision produces two times the force of gravity (or a G-2) deceleration of the car, and a 5-G deceleration of the head.  This unnatural and forceful movement affects the muscles and ligaments in the neck, stretching, and potentially tearing them.”    Anyone that experiences pain after an accident should not ignore the symptoms.

The broad range of symptoms and lack of significant tangible evidence (i.e. scarring, broken bones) leads many medical doctors and insurance companies to dismiss whiplash and prescribe rest and temporary painkillers.  The most common source of pain is usually caused by stretched or torn ligaments, which cannot be seen by the naked eye.  The spinal structure is incredibly vulnerable during an accident, discs in the vertebrae could slip out of alignment and pain could show up days or even weeks later.  Symptoms can start off fairly mild and progressively get worse.  Initially, whiplash pain may be similar to muscle soreness, but as it intensifies, concussion-like symptoms may appear such as fatigue, dizziness, and blurred vision.

It is important for whiplash patients to seek a chiropractor for corrective help because of their expertise in spinal manipulation.   “Chiropractic care, with its emphasis on comprehensive spinal health, is well suited to the complex, diverse symptoms and therapeutic response that have contributed to seeming confusion regarding whiplash….  A chiropractor’s systematic approach to treatment, with a realistic focus on active rehabilitation, can achieve better-than-average results for many patients.”   Through methods of manipulative care, chiropractors provide a critical approach for whiplash patients by slowly strengthening the damaged ligaments and tissues back to health.

The primary goal for a whiplash patient is to restore movement and functionality in the damaged areas.  Inactivity will not help the muscles become reoriented with their original range of motion.  Routine adjustments from a chiropractor are critical, but patients must be proactive at home as well.

During the night, patients who use ordinary pillows do not receive the corrective support to the head, neck and spine. Cervical pillows offer proper alignment, which is essential to maintaining good posture.  Proper alignment and posture will help to reduce tension throughout the day, enabling greater mobility.

Between regular visits with a chiropractor, whiplash patients should begin at-home rehabilitation to the injured spinal structure.  As the soreness subsides, treatment for whiplash must involve re-strengthening the ligaments in the neck that have been overly strained.  As mobility in the neck is restored, resistance should be gradually increased to enhance balance and strength.  Whiplash is a very severe injury to a critical part of the body.  Effective recovery must include a solid balance between chiropractic care, rest, and proper exercise. These methods of treatment are cost efficient and many can be done in the convenience of home.  Whiplash is not something that you “live with.”  The pain can be defeated and life can resume back to normalcy.

[1] Walker, Kamiah A., (2010 Feb, 1) Causes of Whiplash. http://www.spineuniverse.com/conditions/whiplash/causes-whiplash

[2] Practical Research Studies (1993)