The answer to this question is not a simple one as many people tend to associate any type of neck pain with having whiplash. The first thing is to find out is whether or not you have whiplash.
Is it Whiplash or a Pain in the Neck?
Whiplash is defined as an injury to the neck, by moving the head forward and then backward in a rapid fashion that places strain on the neck muscles and ligaments. Whiplash is most common when the victim has been rear-ended, or hit from behind by another vehicle but can result from physical abuse (such as shaken baby syndrome) or contact sports. The symptoms of whiplash vary and are not limited to –
• Restricted joint movement in spine or limbs
• Displacement of spinal discs, also known as a herniation, which causes sharp pain down one or both arms; It also can create small tears in spinal tissue and damage the nervous system, which is followed by numbness, tingling and muscle weakness
• Chronic pain in the neck area
• Cognitive dysfunction that may include difficulty concentrating
When to See a Doctor
If you have unrelated neck pain that persists for a period of time or you experience the following:
• A shooting pain through one or both arms
• Tingling or numb feeling in one or both arms or hands
• Inability to touch chin to your chest
You may want to see a chiropractor or other medical professional as they can diagnose an underlying problem. If you are not having any of the symptoms or find it goes away after changing positions, it may just be the result of poor posture.
The Severity of Whiplash
For some, neck pain resulting from an accident is treated with ice and a light brace. However this may not be sufficient and while the pain may go away, there can be underlying damage to the soft tissues of the neck. For instance, a person may find themselves feeling:
• Pain in their jaw
• Significant damage to ligaments, discs, nerves or joints
• Difficulty swallowing
• Irritability or unable to concentrate
If any case, they should see a chiropractor so that x-ray as well as other tests may be performed to determine if there is an underlying problem.
Seeing the Chiropractor
The primary objective of the chiropractor is to use gentle adjustments that assist the spine and discs so that they are aligned properly. These manipulations are also designed to reduce muscle spasms and rebuild muscle strength with the aid of physical therapy.
The chiropractor will first focus on reducing pain and inflammation and check the neck, mid and low back. From there, the range of motion, disc injuries and muscle spasms will be examined. Other factors that will be noted are walking, posture and spinal alignment. A comprehensive exam provides an understanding of the individuals’ body mechanics. X-rays and /or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be taken along with the patient medical history to determine whether they can be treated.
Some cases of whiplash may only require minor therapy to assist the body as it heals and deals with inflammation, respectively. Non-medicinal treatment may include acupuncture, massage or Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).
If you or someone you know may have experienced any or all of symptom described, then you may want to share this information with them or give our office a call to make an appointment. We offer free consultation to find out if we can help.
Mayo Clinic Diseases and Conditions homepage (2011) Retrieved August 30, 2011; from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/whiplash/DS01037
Mayo Clinic Diseases and Conditions homepage (2011) Retrieved August 30, 2011; from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/neck-pain/DS00542
American Chiropractic Association Patient Health and Wellness Tips (2011) Retrieved August 30, 2011; from http://www.acatoday.org/content_css.cfm?CID=3131
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