5 Facts About Whiplash, A Portland Chiropractor’s Perspective
1) Pain is not the only symptom
Although neck and/or shoulder pain is the most common symptom associated with whiplash injury, other symptoms may include headaches, neck swelling, muscle spasms, numbness or tingling into your arms, nausea, difficulty swallowing, dizziness, and blurred vision. Symptoms may be present immediately after an accident or they may slowly begin to develop over hours or even days.
2) Injury may occur at speeds less than 5mph
It's hard to believe that at such slow speeds your body may become injured, but researchers recently conducted low speed rear impact tests and concluded that 29% of people developed symptoms related to whiplash at speeds of just 2.5mph. Furthermore, it has been shown that a 10mph rear end collision can produce up to 9 G's of force in your neck! Keep in mind, the speed of the collision does not correlate to the degree of injury your body may sustain.
3) During impact your neck is forced into an unnatural S curve
The 7 vertebrae of the neck normally combine to form a 35-45 degree curve called the cervical lordosis. Biomechanical studies have shown that during a rear-end collision the torso is forced back into the seat and at the same time moves upward causing the lower cervical vertebrae to move into hyperextension while the upper cervical vertebrae flex forward. It is believed that it is during this time that injury occurs in the neck as the muscles, tendons, and ligaments are being strained to hold the vertebrae against opposing forces.
4) X-rays are usually negative for fracture
Advancements in seat and headrest design have helped to diminish the number of serious head and neck injuries resulting from rear-end collisions. Although x-rays are usually negative for fractures of the cervical spine, a common finding associated with whiplash injuries is a straightening of the cervical curve. This can be due to persistent muscle spasm and is usually associated with pain. Have a trained medical professional exam you after an accident and decide if X-rays are indicated.
On the right is an X-ray of a normal cervical lordosis, whereas the X-ray on the left shows a decreased lordosis or straightening of the curve.
5) Chiropractic treatment can help
Chiropractors are trained to diagnosis and treat many of the injuries that are typically associated with whiplash. Your chiropractor will perform a thorough history and physical examination, may request x-rays or other imaging if necessary, will provide treatment to the soft tissues and joints as necessary, and will teach you proper home care for your injuries. Treatment can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months depending on the severity of injury, and in the State of Oregon your PIP coverage will cover medical expenses, including chiropractic and certain types of massage, up to $15,000.
More than 1 million people suffer whiplash injuries each year and about 10% of those end up with chronic pain that affects their daily activities. If you or someone you know is suffering from pain related to an auto accident, get it checked out by a professional, you don't deserve to be in chronic pain.
Harvard Health Publications, Whiplash, 9/1/2009
Spine Research Institute of San Diego, www.srisd.com
Clinical Biomechanics, Cervical Spine Curvature During Simulated Whiplash, Volume 19, Issue 1, January 2004
American Journal of Medicine, Whiplash: A Review of a commonly Misunderstood Injury, June 1 2001