Whiplash Treatment: Could Seeing A Chiropractor Be Effective?
Whiplash and its subsequent trauma has historically been looked upon extremely simplistically with professionals believing that after receiving a hit, the head and neck snapped a particular direction causing damage and injury to muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves and potentially blood vessels. Once the head and neck reached its limit it would rebound and cause further injury and thus contribute to the development of symptoms.
Recent advancements in Whiplash research has led to the discovery that it is in fact much more complicated than this historical view. It is now recognised that the sequence of events that take place during a whiplash cause a concentration of stress and strain that is particularly focused upon the lower joints of the cervical (neck) spine and upper back. This stress has been estimated to cause up to 10 times more movement within the joints of the lower neck than is usually considered normal.
While this is the case, image sequencing has demonstrated that as the lower neck moves one direction (hyperextension) the upper neck actually shifts the opposite (hyperflexion) direction, therefore almost creating an S-shape within the cervical spine.
Individuals who suffer Whiplash will tell you of the incredible acute pain as well as lack of neck movement that characteristically follows. If not properly assessed and managed, Whiplash can contribute to the development of chronic neck pain and its many associated problems.
SECONDARY PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH WHIPLASH
- Blurred vision
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Poor posture
- Hearing difficulties (tinnitus)
- Thoracic outlet syndrome
- TMJ dysfunction
- Disc herniation
In cases of chronic neck pain due to whiplash, it is common to see individuals suffer depression, anxiety, stress, frustration, insomnia and even anger.
Unfortunately, as Whiplash has been poorly understood until recently, many doctors recommended that individuals rest with a cervical collar (neck brace) until symptoms dissipated. The aim of such techniques was to reduce movement of the neck to assist with healing, however it has been shown that immobilization, as is the case with using a cervical collar in fact increases the chances of developing chronic neck pain. It does this by reducing blood flow to the neck, enhancing joint stiffness and reducing neck flexibility as muscles are immobilized in a shortened position.
Treatment in the early stages is critical to restoring normal neck biomechanics and alleviating pain. Chiropractors are trained to assess, diagnose and manage problems arising from the musculoskeletal system including issues like Whiplash. Below are just some of the techniques that your Chiropractor may use to help assist you.
- Traditional manual manipulation in the early stages of care is rarely used due to the acute nature of the injury. As individuals rarely have any pain-free movement in their neck, more gentle procedures are preferred. As your recovery progresses, manual manipulation may be implemented to help restore normal joint position and alignment
- Joint mobilisation of the cervical and thoracic spine is preferred in the early stages of management. This therapy is gentle and designed to assist with opening stiff and locked joints as is seen with Whiplash sufferers. This technique is primarily used in acute or severe pain cases to improve movement and flexibility
- Cervical spine traction therapy is quite similar to joint mobilisation however involves being seated and with the assistance of a weight having your neck gently stretched to help restore the normal cervical spine curvature. Patients are able to do this from the comfort of their own homes
- Massage, particularly gentle techniques may be used to relieve muscle tension and promote normal tissue healing of tendons and ligaments
- Flexibility & Strengthening exercises are critical along with your Chiropractic treatment to fasten your progress and reduce the risk of your neck problem becoming a chronic issue. Specific flexibility stretching and strengthening exercises may be prescribed to assist with returning to normal function
CHIROPRACTIC & WHIPLASH RESEARCH
- Normal motion between C7-T1 is considered approximately 2 degrees, whereas in the event of a whiplash events these joints can move up to 20 degrees. Woodward, M.N., Cook, J.C., Gargan, M.F., & Bannister, G.C (1996). Chiropractic treatment of chronic whiplash injuries. Injury, 27(9); 643 – 645
- The stress placed upon the lower neck and upper back is concentrated on the facet joint capsules and the involved spinal disc. As Chiropractors treat facet joint capsules and discs when manipulative the spine it stand to reason that Chiropractic is an effective whiplash treatment method. Woodward, M.N., Cook, J.C., Gargan, M.F., & Bannister, G.C (1996). Chiropractic treatment of chronic whiplash injuries. Injury, 27(9); 643 – 645