The Accident Came as a Complete Surprise
Just like any other day, a mother of two was driving with her children and her mother in the car. Unlike any other day, the family was rear-ended on Highway 1 in stop-and-go traffic.
The grandmother felt immediate pain and stiffness. The kids were afraid and crying. The driver, the mom, felt a surge of adrenaline.
There was some damage to the rear of the car, but it was drivable. No one was critically injured. No ambulance required.
24 Hours Later, More Painful Surprises
The next day the mom noticed that her neck was pretty stiff and sore. Her active range of motion was limited and painful. She didn’t go to work that day.
The following day at work she noticed pain and tingling in her right arm. Her sister suggested chiropractic care for both her and her mom.
Chiropractic Care Helped
Grandma began care the next day for intense headaches with neck pain and stiffness. After two weeks of treatment, a few times a week, Grandma wasn’t getting better as quickly as her daughter. I referred her for X-rays.
When you come to see me for whiplash, I might use:
- Instrument-assisted manipulation: this technique is gentle. I use an instrument called the Activator. I apply force without thrusting into the spine. This is helpful for older patients who have a degenerative joint syndrome. It is also for anyone with a preference for a gentle non-thrust approach.
- Specific spinal manipulation: I find the restricted spinal joints that may show abnormal motion (called subluxations). This technique helps restore motion to the joint with a gentle thrusting technique. Stretching soft tissue and stimulating the nervous system restores normal motion.
- Therapeutic exercises: help restore normal motion in your spine and reduce whiplash symptoms.
Because of my background as a massage therapist, I also use manual therapy to treat injured soft tissues (e.g. ligaments and muscles). Some examples of manual therapies I may use are:
- Instrument-assisted soft tissue therapy: I may use myofascial blading. This instrument-assisted technique treats injured soft tissues. I will perform gentle repeated strokes using the Graston or RockBlade instruments over the injured area.
- Manual joint stretching and resistance techniques
- Therapeutic massage
- Trigger point therapy
I choose the treatment that best addresses any spinal movement or nerve-related causes of your whiplash.
Whiplash Often Comes with Unpleasant Surprises
We discovered Grandma had some pre-existing degenerative arthritis in her neck. The accident created an antalgic straightening of the neck, called military neck. Military neck puts a lot of pressure on the spine, discs between the bones, ligaments, muscles, nerves and other tissues of the neck.
Whiplash Isn’t Just Caused by Car Crashes
Whiplash comes from any motion causing your head to forcefully and quickly move backward and then forward. This motion often injures bones, discs, ligaments, muscles, nerves and other tissues of the neck and spine.
Activities that cause whiplash include:
- Auto accidents
- Contact sports
- Slip and fall accidents
- Being punched
- Being shaken
Symptoms of Whiplash Typically Start Within 24 Hours of the Injury
Some signs you may have whiplash are:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Worsening neck pain or loss of range of neck movement
- Headaches, most often starting at the base of the skull
- Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back or arms
- Tingling or numbness in the arms
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
Whiplash can be further complicated when:
- You’ve had whiplash before
- You are of an older age
- You have existing low back or neck pain
How Long Does It Take to Recover from Whiplash?
Patients with injuries like whiplash typically see me a few times a week for a few weeks until they feel 70% better.
The mom in this story felt 70% better within two weeks of care. She quickly went from coming in three times a week to once a week, and then every two weeks. She was released from care after about two months.
Grandma, with her pre-existing arthritis, developed a chronic pain syndrome. She required co-management with her Primary Care Physician. We also recommended a referral for Physical Therapy, massage therapy and acupuncture .
A year later, Grandma still has occasional neck pain, but notes that overall she is doing great now!
And what about those kiddos? We did bring them in to get their spines checked. They had some asymmetries in movement and tenderness to palpation. A handful of treatments and they recovered completely!
I see myself as the primary care specialist for spinal health and well-being. I’m good at adjusting the spine, releasing soft tissue tension, and recommending exercise and lifestyle modifications. I see it as my job to refer my patients for adjunct treatments and co-management when things don’t go as expected.