Whiplash is a neck injury brought on by a sudden movement of the neck back and forth, causing these muscles to be strained. Often rear-end car accidents result in whiplash injury. However, here at Oakland Spine and Physical Therapy, we see patients with whiplash due to falls, sports accidents, and other traumas.
Because the neck’s ligaments and muscles are strained beyond their usual range of motion, whiplash leads to movement restrictions and short-term neck pain. The soft tissue injuries caused by whiplash can cause a variety of painful symptoms. But thankfully, an experienced chiropractor, like you can find at Oakland Spine and Physical Therapy’s four Northern New Jersey locations, can help minimize and resolve the pain and suffering brought on by whiplash.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a strain in the neck caused by rapid movements and leads to restriction in movements. If you’ve ever had to brake suddenly in your car and felt your head move quickly back and forth out of your control, you know how sudden and scary this movement can be. It may cause injury to the cervical muscles, discs, nerve roots, and intervertebral joints present between vertebrae.
What are common whiplash symptoms?
Whiplash symptoms might appear up to 24 hours after the initial impact. The following signs and symptoms may appear, typically within the first few days after the injury has occurred:
- Lower back pain
- Neck stiffness and pain
- Shoulder pain
- Irritability, insomnia, and exhaustion
- Numbness or discomfort in the arm or hand
- A tingling, “pins and needles” or “shocking” feeling along the neck and sometimes back
These symptoms can last for several days to many months after a whiplash incident occurred. During this time, work may be missed, quality of life can be diminished and normal activities impacted.
What are some of the most common causes of whiplash?
When your head moves quickly backward and then forward, the muscles in your neck become strained, causing an injury and collection of symptoms that we commonly call whiplash. This sudden jerking, quick motion stretches the neck beyond its normal range, causing tears in the tendons and ligaments in your neck. While car accidents are one of the most common causes of whiplash, there are other incidents where this injury may occur:
- Activities involving physical contacts, such as boxing, football, and some forms of martial arts, or being shaken or struck
- Collisions or falls while riding a bicycle
- Getting hit by a heavy object on the head
How do primary care doctors and orthopedists typically treat whiplash?
The treatment of your whiplash injury depends on how severe your symptoms are. A doctor may suggest pain medication drugs or spinal injections to treat the pain. Although these medications attempt to mask the pain of whiplash, they do nothing to help with healing and recovering from the injury.
Some patients with minor whiplash may find relief from over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen. However, even amongst traditional healthcare practitioners, gentle exercises, traction, physical therapy, heat, massage, and icing are all commonly suggested for relief.
Why You Shouldn’t Let Your Whiplash Go Untreated
Whiplash can be a minor injury that will eventually go away on its own. But sometimes whiplash can be more serious and require greater care. This can help ensure the body heals properly and more severe consequences are avoided. Because whiplash often can’t be identified on MRI, X-rays, or CT scans, many times insurance companies may not cover whiplash treatments.
Patients who don’t receive treatment for whiplash injuries soon after an accident may experience:
- Permanent nervous system and vertebral damage
- Cervical spine collapse
- Long-lasting and chronic discomfort
- Loss of function
A highly-trained chiropractor, like those at Oakland Spine and Physical Therapy can help you in this regard. They can diagnose the issue and offer helpful therapies that may shorten your recovery. Because moderate to severe whiplash can cause pain that makes regular motion nearly impossible, it’s important to seek out care as soon as possible.
After an accident, you may not feel the pain because of the rush of adrenaline that is masking the injuries you’ve sustained. However, after a few hours or days, symptoms will become apparent:
- Neck pain along with shoulder pain caused by strain and stiffness, which can also lead to restricted motion.
- Headaches or discomfort in the center of the head.
- Tinnitus; a condition in which you hear noises such as a ringing, hissing, or humming.
- Vertigo, a disorder causes you to feel dizzy or faint when not moving. It also can make you feel like you are falling or spinning.
Even if you don’t believe your injuries are severe enough to warrant a visit to the doctor, it is still a good idea to visit a chiropractor. Not only can this allow your whole body to heal properly, but you may enjoy relief from pain much faster than if you had tried to treat your whiplash at home.
How a Chiropractor Can Help With Whiplash
Whiplash primarily causes damage to the neck and sometimes the spine. While most of the discomfort occurs in the vertebral area, the injury can also affect other parts of the body, such as the head, shoulders, arms, legs, and hips. Common symptoms include tingling, recurrent headaches, numbness in the hands, and difficulty moving or walking around.
Chiropractors, like our trained team of chiropractors, use a variety of therapeutic methods to treat whiplash injuries and reduce neck inflammation. This includes light stretching exercises and physical therapy procedures. A chiropractor can provide you with a neck brace to wear while you are recovering. Your therapy will also include detailed home care instructions for therapeutic steps such as applying ice packs to your neck at regular intervals.
Thanks to years of study and training, chiropractors help locate the neck joints that are out of alignment and realign them. They move the affected joint in a restricted direction. They may use a quick, delicate thrust in some circumstances and a slow, mobilizing movement in others. A ruptured or bulging disc could have been made worse by the whiplash injury. Therefore, chiropractors use the flexion-distraction technique to alleviate the herniated discs, which is a hands-on, mild, non-thrusting spinal manipulation.
Suffering from Whiplash in North Jersey or New York City?
If you’ve been in a car accident or suffered other traumatic movement that caused your head to be forcefully moved back and forth, it’s best to contact a chiropractor immediately for an evaluation. At Oakland Spine and Physical Therapy, we treat whiplash patients throughout the year at our four locations, spread out conveniently across North Jersey. With locations in Closter, Fair Lawn, Oakland and Wayne, whiplash patients can benefit from both our experienced team of chiropractors as well as our expertly-trained staff of physical therapists. Don’t suffer needless days of neck and head pain due to whiplash. The chiropractors at Oakland Spine and Physical Therapy can get you back to living an active, pain-free life. Reach out today to schedule your consultation and begin the healing process.