Whiplash – A Major Problem with Life-Altering Implications
Every year in the United States, there are over 6 million automobile accidents, an astounding number by any reckoning. While most of these accidents don’t cause any deaths, many do cause one life-altering health problem; whiplash.
What Is Whiplash and How Does it Happen?
Whiplash occurs when a person’s head is violently and rapidly whipped forward and backward due to an auto accident. This violent and sudden motion affects the first seven vertebrae of the spine, the cervical vertebrae, the most. They include the two most important vertebrae of the spine, the Atlas and Axis.
The reason whiplash is so devastating is simple; unlike the thoracic (mid-back) and lumbar (low back) vertebrae, which are supported by the ribs and hips, the cervical vertebrae have much less support. Also, on top of them sits a person’s head, which becomes a 10 to 12-pound weight in an auto accident. When an accident occurs and the head is violently thrown backward and forward, the cervical vertebrae, unfortunately, take the brunt of the traumatic force.
Your Neck’s Normal Curve is Vital to Overall Health and Wellness
So we know how whiplash occurs and that it affects the cervical vertebrae. The question now becomes this; why is a whiplash so devastating? The reason is that the cervical curve (aka lordotic curve) is often altered or wholly erased after a whiplash accident.
That’s a big problem, as the normal cervical curve is vital for excellent health and wellness. When the curve is altered, the delicate spinal nerves between each vertebra become compressed, which can immediately cause pain, tingling, numbness, sore muscles, and several other symptoms. Also, the muscles, ligaments, and tendons that support the cervical spine (and the head) can be severely stretched and, in some cases, torn.
Now, here’s the thing; muscles, tendons, and ligaments usually heal after a few weeks. However, if the cervical curve has been altered or damaged, there’s no mechanism for it to heal itself. In other words, the altered curve will remain altered and, in time, degenerate even further and start to cause a host of other devastating symptoms.
What Symptoms Can Whiplash Cause Short and Long-Term?
Whiplash causes short-term health problems and symptoms and long-term problems and symptoms if it isn’t corrected completely.
Short-Term Symptoms of Whiplash
- Blurred vision
- Tinnitus (Ringing in the ear)
- Neck, arm, shoulder, and hand pain and stiffness.
Long-Term Symptoms of Whiplash
- Chronic headaches, including migraines. (Sometimes daily.)
- Chronic tension, pain, and stiffness of the upper extremities.
- “Clicking” in the cervical vertebrae when you move your head.
- Loss of side-to-sed and up-down motion.
- Degeneration of the intervertebral discs.
- Constant dizziness and, sometimes, vertigo.
- Depression and anxiety from constant pain and stiffness.
How Long Does a Whiplash Take to Heal?
This is a question many people ask after a neck injury due to whiplash, and, frankly, it’s the most difficult to answer. That’s because, even though the initial symptoms will fade, if left untreated, the damage to the cervical curve will continue to worsen.
Typically, for the initial symptoms to fade, it takes about two months. Some people, however, need upwards of 6 months to heal completely. (Age and whiplash severity are two significant factors.) The problem, again, is that if the cervical curve has been damaged, it won’t go back to normal.
That’s why treating a whiplash injury right away is so vitally important. It will both help you heal faster and, more importantly, prevent future health problems that can be devastating, painful, and alter your lifestyle completely.
What to Do After a Car Accident Injury
The best thing you can do in the first few days after a neck injury caused by whiplash is to get an exam and X-Rays to determine the severity of the problem. Next would be a combination of:
- Chiropractic adjustments to put the vertebrae back in alignment and restore the cervical curve to normal.
- Massage therep[ay to help the muscles, ligaments, and tendons heal.
- Cervical extension/traction to restore the normal cervical curve.
- Heat and cold therapy as needed.
- Follow up X-Rays to make sure the cervical curve has been restored to normal.
Symptoms Fade Initially But, Without Treatment, Come Back with a Vengeance
We’ve said it already, but we want to say it one more time; without treatment and correction, the loss of cervical curve caused by a whiplash will worsen.
Yes, initially, you may feel better, at least for a few months and maybe even longer. Inevitably, though, the same symptoms will come back and, unfortunately, they’ll be even worse and cause more pain and misery.
That, in a nutshell, is why taking care of whiplash and seeing your treatment plan through to completion is so important. By doing that, you can prevent future (and often overwhelming) health problems and pain.
If you have more questions about whiplash, or you’re suffering from whiplash symptoms and health problems, call Stridewell today and talk to one of our whiplash experts.