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Whiplash Neck Injuries



·                  Self Quiz

·                  Introduction

·                  Anatomy of the Neck

·                  The Whiplash Injury

·                  Understanding Whiplash

·                  The Symptoms of Whiplash

·                  Your Chiropractic Evaluation

·                  Chiropractic Care

·                  Self-Care


How Much Do You Know About Whiplash? A Self Quiz…


Answer true or false to each of the following statements:

·       “Whiplash” is a term that covers a multitude of neck and back problems which come from sudden movement of the neck.

·       You can suffer “whiplash” is other activities besides being a passenger in an automobile.

·       Experienced drivers are just as prone to whiplash injury as poor drivers.

·       People who wear seatbelts have a greater margin of protection against whiplash.

·       Neck problems can be the source of pain or disorder in other parts of the body.

·       Whiplash may be treated effectively by chiropractic procedure.


If you answered “true” on all the questions, you are correct. If you missed more than one answer, you need to become more aware of structural health, as it is likely that sometime in your life you or someone in your family will be faced with a problem involving the neck, back and spine. Prevention is your best protection. Read on to find out more about Whiplash!


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        When someone mentions “whiplash” you automatically think of a neck injury. But what is it, exactly, that happens? What damage is done? Is it permanent? What are the symptoms? How should they be treated?

        To better understand what takes place when someone suffers a whiplash injury, let’s study the anatomy of the neck.


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Anatomy of the Neck


        The neck is referred to as the cervical spine. There are seven bones in the neck called cervical vertebrae. Each of these except the first two are separated by spinal discs. Each disc acts as a cushion between the vertebrae and allows motion between each done. A pair of spinal nerves exit between each two cervical vertebrae, one on each side of the spine. These nerves supply the tissue of the neck, shoulders and arms. Ligaments and muscles drape the neck to provide stability and a means of motion.


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The Whiplash Injury


        Exactly what takes place, and what is damaged, in a whiplash injury? Normally, we associate whiplash with automobile accidents. However, many other kinds of accidents can be responsible, such as a sudden fall or sports injury.

        Whatever the cause, the basic injury is one of rapid overstretching of the muscles, ligaments, nerve root and blood vessels of the neck area. Most often rapid overstretching in one direction causes a recoil effect and overstretching in the opposite direction. Strain and sprain of the soft tissues of the neck result in inflammation and irritation of the muscle, muscle, ligament and nerve. Depending up on the intensity of the force involved, the injury can range from mild to severe.


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Understanding Whiplash


        Your neck does much more than simply connect your head to the rest of your body. Without you neck, you couldn’t hold up your head, or turn it easily from one side to the other. Many complex parts of your neck work together to perform a delicate balancing act. But your neck is fragile part of your body, as well. When the force of whiplash strikes, your head is tossed around like the head of a flimsy rag doll.  Your neck may be seriously injured. Then it is unable to move and support your head the way it normally does. If not corrected early, whiplash can lead to other problems, such as arthritic degeneration.


Healthy Neck Anatomy




The Stages of Whiplash


1.   Before Whiplash: Your Neck’s Delicate Balance – Imagine balancing a 10 lb ball on the end of a stick. That’s the delicate balancing act your neck performs throughout the day. Soft tissue is really the only thing keeping your head poised on the top of your spine. If your cervical spine is aligned and neck anatomy healthy, your head’s weight is evenly balanced.


2.   During the Force of Whiplash – Whiplash turns your head’s weight into a powerful force, hurling your neck past it’s normal range of motion. In the typical whiplash injury, your head is whipped backward, injuring muscles, ligaments, discs and other structures. As your head whips forward, its speed doubles, increasing the force on your neck. If you head is turned to the side, injury is often more severe.


3.   After Whiplash: Your Neck Out of Balance – After a whiplash injury, your neck’s balance is upset. Your neck’s natural curve may be reversed, which unevenly distributes your head’s weight and further misaligns your vertebrae. Your fragile, damaged neck must now strain to hold up your head. If not corrected, scarring – and even arthritic degeneration – may develop. You may also have recurring pain.


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Symptoms of Whiplash


    In general, there are a group of symptoms that are common to most whiplash injuries. These are: neck pain and stiffness, headache, pain radiating to the shoulder area, loss of ability to turn the neck fully, a feeling of heaviness of the head or some dizziness.


Whiplash symptoms usually occur immediately after the injury. Most patients will become aware of the symptoms within several hours after the trauma. This, however, is not always the case. It is not unusual for the symptoms to occur days or even weeks after the injury.


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Your Chiropractic Evaluation



X-rays give a detailed view of the bones in your neck and back. They help spot where the vertebrae have moved into an unbalanced position or misalignment. X-rays also rule out other problems, like fractures or tumors.


Physical Exam

Your chiropractor uses special techniques to identify spine-related problems. Using firm finger pressure, he or she checks for pain, stiffness, range of motion or swelling in neck or shoulder muscles. Finger pressure combined with bending your neck in different directions may help your chiropractor locate restricted bones or joints. You may also have other routine tests.


An evaluation helps your chiropractor diagnose a whiplash injury, discover the extent of damage, and determine the most suitable treatment for you. A health history begins to uncover your symptoms and the cause of your injury. It may also reveal other, preexisting problems with your spine. A physical exam helps identify the nature of your injury. You may also have x-rays, which help diag­nose a whiplash injury or rule out other problems.



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Chiropractic Treatment


       The whiplash injury is a very real problem and should receive special attention. The chiropractic physician is a specialist in neck disorders. The strain and sprain of muscles and ligaments can cause the normal position and flexibility of the neck to be altered. The chiropractic physician is trained to detect and correct these problems and restore the neck to normal function. Gentle manipulative therapy or “adjustment” is administered to restore normal function to the area. Depending upon the severity of the injury, additional treatment consisting of braces, physical therapy and exercise may be warranted. These treatments may include:

·       Trigger Point Therapy – Your chiropractor applies pressure to small precise areas of pain (trigger points). This relieves “knots” in your muscles, helping to reduce pain.

·       Ice – Your chiropractor may apply ice to your neck after an injury to help reduce swelling.

·       Electrical Stimulation – Electrical impulses cause muscles to contract gently and automatically. This may relax muscles, reduce swelling and improve circulation.


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Chiropractic treatment is most effective when combined with self-care. Good posture helps keep your spine aligned, allowing your neck to heal in its proper position. Proper posture also reduces pressure on neck structures, helping to pre­vent future injuries. Neck exercises improve your flexibility and strength­ another lifetime preventive measure against future injuries.



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