What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is “an injury to the cervical spine caused by an abrupt jerking motion of the head, either backward, forward or side to side.” Before the days of high speed travel with the inevitable sudden, jerking stops, the term whiplash referred to the action of a horse whip. But in the case of the human neck as a whip, the snap in that wrenching split second may cause long-term damage to the ligaments, tendons and/or discs. Picture sitting in an automobile, the body motionless within the moving vehicle. Then comes the sudden impact, or the extra sudden push when struck from behind. The weight of the body, through the law of physics called inertia, moves forward with the car while the head (weighing 8-12lbs) and neck snaps backwards, with severe strain placed on the delicate tissues (ligaments, tendons and/or discs) of the neck and upper spine. The generic term for any of several resulting injuries we call, whiplash.

About the Neck

The neck is comprised of seven individual small bones collectively known as the cervical spine. The neck provides full support to the head, which contains twenty-one bones of its own and has an average weight of 8-12 pounds. The bones of the neck are arranged in a precise pattern and structure to support the head. A delicate curvature must be maintained at all times to allow a clear channel for the passage of the vital spinal cord which travels through the center of the neck bones, and the equally important nerves which exit the cord in between these bones. The curve of the neck also plays a part in determining the overall shape and structure of the rest of the spine, affecting the entire skeleton and its ability to maintain balance.

What happens in Whiplash?

The bones of the neck (cervical vertebra) are held together by ligaments. Ligaments are very strong tissues that keep the vertebra in you spine (from your neck to your back) in proper alignment. But, no matter how strong the ligaments are, any time there is “fast sudden movement” like in whiplash, those ligaments tear and they can no longer keep the vertebra lined up properly. This then causes a closing in the holes between the the vertebra, where the nerves pass through. This may result in an irritation (or pinching) to the nerves. The so-called pinching of nerves will then cause any or all of a number of symptoms including neck injury, headaches, back injury, arm injury, hand injury, leg injury, foot or toe injury, arm numbness or tingling, hand numbness or tingling, leg numbness or tingling, foot or toe numbness or tingling, arm weakness, hand weakness, leg weakness, foot or toe weakness. Often, symptoms from a whiplash injury can develop quickly. However, a person who has suffered a whiplash injury may not notice symptoms until hours, days or even weeks later. Therefore, it is wise to visit a doctor or chiropractor even after a minor accident.

The chiropractor is a health care specialist for problems relating to the spine and nerves. Early detection of problems helps assure better healing. A doctor of chiropractic and/or medical doctor will make a thorough examination, including the use of x-rays and clinical laboratory tests (like MRIs). Following evaluation, the chiropractor will make the necessary delicate spinal adjustments (or manipulation) to correct any misalignment of vertebrae, also alleviating pinching of nerves. A simple understanding of chiropractic principles contributes to a relaxed and confident attitude toward adjustment, greatly enhancing its success. Beyond providing specific treatment, the doctors at Injury Treatment Solutions can help you heal better by teaching you to be more aware of your role in preventing spinal problems through proper exercise and diet, and learning techniques for normal activities like lifting, bending, sleeping, etc. Do not put off an early visit to the doctors at Injury Treatment Solutions following any accident or crash.

What to do?

Following any accident, answer these questions:

  1. Are you experiencing headaches, head and neck symptoms, stiff neck, muscle spasms?
  2. Do you have restricted head motion?
  3. Do you have equilibrium problems, loss of hearing, ringing in the ears?
  4. Are you experiencing eye strain, increased sensitivity to light?
  5. Have you felt light-headed, excessively tired, or blacked out?
  6. Have you had any neuralgia (nerve symptoms) or neuritis (nerve inflammation)?
  7. Do you have cold hands or feet, or numbness of arms, hands, shoulders, feet, legs?
  8. Are you experiencing periods of unexplained depression, anxiety, irritability?
  9. Are you unable to concentrate, have poor memory?
  10. Do you have symptoms between the shoulders, low-back symptoms, tremors, rapid heartbeat?

If your answer to any of these questions is YES, you may be suffering from a misalignment or dislocation due to whiplash. Our doctors are eminently qualified to assess any problem following tests and examination.

Injury Treatment Solutions is dedicated to helping you achieve your wellness objectives.


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