“Whiplash” is the term used commonly to describe a soft tissue injury to the neck, which occurs when the head has been forced into a sudden forward and backward movement. Your chiropractor or medical practitioner may also use the term “acceleration flexion-extension neck injury” or “hyper-extension neck injury”. The most common cause of whiplash is a motor vehicle accident, but it can also be the result of a sporting injury or other trauma. Child abuse, particularly the shaking of a child, can also result in this injury, as well as more serious injuries to the child’s brain or spinal cord known as “shaken baby syndrome”.
In addition to neck pain, whiplash may also cause headaches, pain in the shoulders and arms, dizziness, numbness and tingling, and weakness in the arms. When these additional symptoms are present, it is called “Whiplash-Associated Disorder” (WAD). The symptoms of WAD may come on immediately or may be delayed by a few days or even weeks. WAD injury is graded from 0-4.
- 0 = No pain or other symptoms
- 1 = Minor pain, but no evidence of physical injury,
- 2 = signs of physical injury such as trouble turning the head.
- 3 = neurological signs such as a loss of reflexes or arm weakness.
- 4 = neck fracture or dislocation.
With grade 2 or 3 WAD, chiropractic care is recommended to relieve symptoms, improve spinal function and prevent the disorder becoming a chronic condition. Obviously, grade 4 WAD requires urgent medical care, in the care of serious trauma it is important that the patient be placed in a cervical collar to prevent neck and spinal movement that may further damage the spinal cord. Plain film x-rays may be required to determine if there is damage to the bones, while specialised scans, like CT or MRI, can check for soft tissue injury such as disc prolapse.
Fortunately, most people with WAD will make a good to full recovery, though the healing time may vary with each individual case. You can improve your prognosis of WAD by following these recommendations:
- Gently exercise your neck to restore movement and flexibility and to ensure that the muscles are acting to support your neck. Your chiropractor can develop a program of exercises that are most suitable for you.
- Try to stay active. Do as many of your normal activities as possible.
- Relaxing both body and mind will help you manage any pain more easily.
- Stay at work if you can. People who stay at work after an accident recover more quickly than those who take time off.
- Don’t use a collar without advice from your chiropractor. Most people don’t need to use collars and using one may unnecessarily slow your recovery.
- Consult with your chiropractor to get the right care and advice.
If you have experienced whiplash and want to discuss treatment with your chiropractor, book online @ https://www.centenarychiro.com.au/ or call us today on 07 3381 0440