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Treating a Whiplash-Type Injury

By Gary Picariello

It has probably happened to all of us in some for or another: You get hit from behind; your head snaps back (which causes damage to ligaments, muscles, and tendons), then your head rebounds or snaps forward (which causes additional damage). In some of the worst cases, you undergo treatment which may involve a neck brace -- or worse.

During impact from behind, the lower neck goes into hyperextension. According to an article on Spine-Health.com, the bottom and top parts of the neck are going in opposite directions during the initial phase of a whiplash. In terms of spinal trauma, you just hit the jackpot.

One Big (Un)Happy Family

If misery loves company, you can relax, “The largest single contributor to chronic neck pain and overall spine pain is motor vehicle crashes” comments our good friends at WebMD.com. In terms of numbers, of the 6 million injuries per year due to motor vehicle crashes, the good web doctor says that about 3 million are whiplash-type injuries. Of those, 500,000 to 900,000 of the injured will develop chronic pain.

However, not all whiplash is caused by auto accidents. Participating in athletics, for example, can also provide the whiplash effect. Anything that can cause the head to whip forward can cause whiplash. 

The prevention and treatment of whiplash goes beyond just head and neck pain. Other conditions attributed to whiplash include blurred vision, dizziness, nausea and even carpal tunnel syndrome.

Treatment

As dire as whiplash sounds, the injury can heal on its own. A chiropractor can help, although The Joint doesn't participate in cases in which insurance or litigation is involved; however, your local chiropractor at The Joint  can provide referrals for that and additional services, such as X-rays, CT (computed tomography) scans, and other tests to rule out specific problems. The following may help in your recovery:

  • Reduce inflammation - Ice your neck to reduce pain and swelling as soon as you can after the injury. Do it for 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours for 2-3 days.

  • Take painkillers or other drugs - A painkiller may be recommended by your doctor, who can make such a determination based on other medicines you may be taking or medical issues you may be suffering.

  • Neck support - Use a neck brace or collar to add support (but only on a doctor’s recommendation). It is not advised to use a collar for an extended period because it may expedite atrophy in the neck. 

Once the acute symptoms of neck strain are gone, you will probably want to start rehabilitation. This will make your neck muscles stronger and more limber. It will help you both recover and reduce the odds of straining your neck again in the future.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Arvada, Colo.

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