Car Accidents - Whiplash
Whiplash By the Numbers
More than 50% of people involved in a motor vehicle accident receive a diagnosis of whiplash. 15%-40% of these people that have acute neck pain following the collision will go on to develop chronic neck pain down the road. Symptoms may not appear immediately following a car accident, but instead may slowly worsen days or weeks following the collision. Symptoms left untreated may intensify over time causing joint degeneration, arthritis, and irreversible changes in the body.
How to Treat Whiplash
In the past, treatment was to rest, avoid as much movement as possible, and wear a soft cervical collar for comfort. However, new research shows that this can actually be more hamrful to you, and active whiplash treatment should begin within 96 hours of the accident. This should include gentle stretching, joint mobilization and manipulation, soft tissue work, and strengthening and stabilizing exercises. Whiplash, also known as Cervical Acceleration/Deceleration Syndrome or C.A.D.S., is difficult, complex, and time-consuming to treat, so referral is often made to another physician or doctor. Unfortunately, many people wait too long before seeing a physical therapist or chiropractor for treatment. Both physical therapists and chiropractors can help treat the negative effects of whiplash, and when the two skill sets are combined, the results are even better.
How Chiropractic Helps Whiplash
A chiropractor can help realign joints that are altered during a car accident. Joint capsules that surround the joints along the entire spine from the neck to the lower back, in addition to joints in the arms and legs, can become tight, guarded, and locked into place causing pain. Mechanical mobilization of these joints can not only produce relief of painful symptoms, but allow the body to move more naturally and smoothly as well.
How Physical Therapy Helps Whiplash
Once the body is aligned and working properly, it is essential that a physical therapist creates a specific exercise program to strengthen and stabilize these areas of the body to ensure long-term success of treatment. Physical Therapy will help correct muscle imbalances including weak, unstable, tight or overly flexible muscle groups. By strengthening and stabilizing the core, neck, back, and extremities the body will be in the best position possible to heal.
It is important to remember that whiplash injuries are very treatable, but it is vital for a patient to be seen as soon as possible following a motor vehicle accident to help prevent future complications. It is much easier and you will have much greater success treating the initial symptoms following a car accident than trying to reverse the long-term effects of joint degeneration and arthritis many years later.