If you’ve ever been in an auto accident, you know just how scary they can be. Even the most minor collisions causing no damage to either vehicle or person can leave a person shaken and scared. If you’ve ever been in an auto accident where you or someone else got hurt, you know how traumatic and difficult it is to endure. As the saying goes, “accidents happen”. Often. In fact, it’s estimated that an auto accident occurs every 60 seconds in the US. That amounts to over 5 million accidents per year! The reality is, if you are reading this, there is a very good chance you could be in an accident at some point in your life.
When someone is in an auto accident, one of the most common injuries they experience is called “whiplash”, which refers to the violent way the head moves back and forth in response to the impact of the colliding vehicles. While whiplash is commonly thought to occur only in rear-end accidents in which the head moves backwards and forwards, whiplash can also occur in other motions such as side to side. When a vehicle is suddenly stopped or suddenly forced into movement, it forces the person’s head to move. When the neck muscles get stretched too much as a result, they reflexively tighten, which sends the head in the other direction. This can cause damage to muscles, ligaments, nerves, and joints in the neck, which causes problems such as neck pain, radiating pain into the arms, or headaches. Healing time from whiplash can vary greatly depending on the extent of the damage as well as other factors such as age and trauma history (i.e. previous neck injuries).
One of the most common consequences of whiplash in auto accidents is subluxation in the neck. Subluxation occurs when a spinal bone (vertebra) or whole section of the spine becomes restricted or misaligned. This causes irritation and inflammation of the nerves and joints alike within the spine, which causes symptoms such as pain, numbness, or burning. Chiropractors are the only kind of doctor who is expertly trained to identify and correct subluxation in the spine. If you are in an auto accident, it is vital that you have your spine checked by one as soon as possible.
How We Treat Whiplash in Springfield, IL
Comprehensive Consultation and Exam
At the Springfield Wellness Center, your visit will begin with a thorough consultation. During this time, the doctor you see will review the accident in detail as far as what happened, what injuries you sustained, and how they are affecting your quality of life. Our doctors want to listen to you and understand the impact this has had on you so they can make the best possible recommendations for care. Before doing this, though, they will do a detailed exam so that your condition may be properly diagnosed. The doctor will perform various orthopedic, neurologic, and functional movement testing to accurately determine what the best course of action will be. The ultimate goal is to restore you to pre-accident status, which means how you were feeling just before the accident occurred. That process begins at this important first visit.
Specific Chiropractic Care in Springfield, IL
Chiropractic care is the foundation of the care we provide at the Springfield Wellness Center for people who are suffering from whiplash. Oftentimes, these injuries occur in rear-end accidents, but they can also happen if a vehicle is struck from the side. In either circumstance, forces are applied to the neck that can alter the function of the spine, joints, muscles, and nerves.
Chiropractors specialize in maintaining the alignment of the spine. If a part of the spine is shifted or rotated due to a whiplash trauma, they use their hands to gently correct the misalignment. This often will create instant relief for the patient, as it improves ranges of motion and decreases the pain. Because injuries like these are to be taken seriously, your doctor will guide you through a treatment plan designed to get you through this experience and back to the life that you want to live. After all, if an accident causes a physical injury such as whiplash, no pill or injection can fix that physical problem. Chiropractic is effective because it addresses the root cause of the problem and puts the body in a position to heal properly.
Massage Therapy and Soft Tissue Work
When a person experiences whiplash, the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and upper back sustain a tremendous amount of strain. If there is enough speed or force involved, it can even cause muscles to rupture. For most people, however, the muscles in a whiplash injury are very stiff and sore, causing limited range of motion, pain, and tenderness to touch. At the Springfield Wellness Center, our massage therapists are experts in helping these irritated muscles heal. Their gentle techniques will help remove adhesions in the muscles and provide some much-needed relief to this suffering patient population.
If you don’t think massage therapy is for you, our chiropractors are also trained in numerous soft tissue techniques, including Active Release and Graston Techniques. These techniques are also designed to free the muscles from adhesions which restore mobility and function to the muscles. While Graston involves the use of a metal tool, Active Release is done by hand. Regardless of which technique is used, the goal is the same. Reduce muscle tension and irritation to allow for a better healing experience.
Deep Tissue Laser in Springfield, IL
Because of the impact from a collision that causes whiplash, it is common for muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissues to be damaged. When tissues are damaged, it causes inflammation, which can cause further pain and discomfort. Ultimately, these tissues need to heal and, here at the Springfield Wellness Center, we leverage technology in the office to accelerate that healing process. Deep tissue laser uses light energy to penetrate deep into the tissue, all the way down to the cellular level. There, it stimulates the mitochondria of the cell, which is responsible for energy production. That energy is put towards reducing inflammation and accelerating tissue healing, both of which will lead to a reduction in pain. Deep tissue laser is a fast, painless treatment that gets great results, and is a key component in our whiplash treatment plans.
At the Springfield Wellness Center, exercise is a key component to many of the treatment plans that we offer patients. This is especially true for car accident cases, including those that involve whiplash. Our bodies heal through movement, so the earlier that movement can be incorporated into treatment, the better. Many times in these delicate cases, exercise starts off very basic with things like range of motion and stretching. Over time, it’s important to provide more stability and strength to the spine to decrease the chance of something like this ever happening again. This is a key step towards returning the patient to pre-accident status.
Common Symptoms of Whiplash in Springfield, IL
Perhaps the most common symptom of whiplash from an auto accident is neck pain due to the forceful nature of neck movement during this type of accident. Rapid neck movement can cause damage to discs, nerves, muscles, and/or joints in the neck, which can create severe, even sometimes debilitating pain. It is important to have a chiropractor evaluate the patient’s neck as soon as possible after an accident to determine the extent of the damage and the right approach to treating this problem effectively. Chiropractic, soft tissue work, and exercise are three of the common treatments utilized at the Springfield Wellness Center to get fantastic results for patients who have been in a car accident.
Another very common symptom that is related to accidents involving whiplash is the occurrence of a concussion. When a car rapidly stops or is rapidly put into motion, it causes the head and neck to move quickly, as in whiplash. This rapid neck movement can cause the brain to essentially smash into the interior of the skull, causing bruising on the brain. Symptoms of a concussion can include confusion, trouble concentrating, headache, dizziness, just to name a few. It’s important to know that symptoms may not begin right away, so it is critical to be evaluated on a regular basis, especially if you begin to experience symptoms such as these.
A very common symptom associated with whiplash, and concussions, are headaches. Even if a concussion is not present, headaches are still a very common symptom of whiplash. This is primarily due to the rapid head movement that can cause damage to muscles, nerves, and discs in the upper cervical region. These nerves and muscles travel up the back of the head, oftentimes causing tension headaches. These headaches are pretty indistinguishable from typical headaches, so it is important to get this problem addressed as quickly as possible before it becomes more of a chronic issue. Chronic headaches can last for years and sometimes even decades, so the sooner they are addressed, the less likely you are to develop a chronic issue.
Sometimes overlooked due to the obvious effects whiplash can have on the head and neck, shoulder pain is also a common symptom of this type of accident. There are many muscles attached to the shoulder and neck, which is why these injuries are so common with other whiplash-related injuries. Shoulder injuries such as muscle strain or even rotator cuff strains can be invoked from a whiplash situation in which the head is moving rapidly back and forth, especially in a side-to-side direction. A combination of deep tissue laser and soft tissue work is very effective in treating shoulder pain that results from whiplash-type injuries from a car accident.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a chiropractor in Springfield, IL help with whiplash?
Yes! The chiropractors at the Springfield Wellness Center are experts at handling auto accident cases that involve whiplash. They will take you through the exam process, provide excellent care, and help get you back to feeling your best again. The SWC staff will help you navigate the insurance and/or legal process so that you can stay focused on healing and feeling better.
Absolutely. The sooner you can see a chiropractor after your accident, the better. The longer you wait to have this problem checked out, the better chance it has of becoming a chronic problem. Chronic injuries can last for months, years, or even decades, so you definitely want to manage this injury as quickly as possible. The Springfield Wellness Center will perform a thorough examination to determine the extent of your injury and give you a specific treatment plan for your specific needs.
Is massage good for whiplash?
Yes, massage can be very effective for treating whiplash. This type of injury often causes very tight, tense muscles that can limit range of motion and cause pain. Massage therapy can work through this tension and help the muscles to heal and get back to normal function. Sometimes it can take time, so you must be patient with yourself and allow your body the time it needs to heal adequately from such a traumatic incident.
How soon after a car accident should you see a chiropractor?
As soon as possible. The sooner you are seen by a chiropractor, the less time your recovery could potentially take. There are times when people don’t get checked by a chiropractor until 3-4 months after the injury, and as a result, their care takes a lot longer because the injury has become chronic and much more difficult to manage. If you are in a whiplash-causing accident, make getting checked by a chiropractor a priority.
Can whiplash symptoms get worse over time?
Definitely. The longer you have a problem, the worse it can potentially get. This is especially true for headaches, neck pain, and pain traveling down the arms (as in a pinched nerve). If the nerves are damaged, they can take a long time to heal. If little to no treatment is performed, it is possible that symptoms could last for years, decades, or even longer.