The Top 5 Critical Do’s and Don’ts for Whiplash Treatment

More so than most injuries, how you treat Whiplash Injuries and when you start Whiplash Treatment is of utmost importance to your long term recovery and how significant the permanent damage is. 

Here is a short video that illustrates the violence the neck undergoes with Whiplash.

While it would be easy to write off the severity of a Whiplash Injury and even skip the Whiplash Treatment, this is perhaps the most common source of long term damage, pain, and loss of function.

The constellation of symptoms associated with both acute and long term Whiplash injuries is referred to as Whiplash-Associated Disorders and includes a wide range of symptoms:

  • Neck Pain
  • Headache
  • Dizziness called Cervical Vertigo
  • Ringing in the Ears
  • Increased Sensitivity to Pain 
  • TMJ (jaw) Pain
  • Poor Concentration and Memory Problems
  • Hypersensitivity to Cold and/or Heat
  • Tinglings, Prickling or Burning Sensations in Your Arms and Hands
  • Concussion and Post Concussion Syndrome
  • Loss of Balance
  • Weakness in the Arms
  • Vision Problems

What you might not realize is that violent whipping of your head and neck happens within a second or two. The brain crashes into the skull and this can easily result in a concussion in addition to the injuries to the neck and upper back. 

I Speak From Experience

Not only have I cared for thousands of Whiplash Injury victims but my path to becoming a chiropractor started with a head-on collision when I was only 18. I didn’t understand the magnitude of my injuries and neither did my parents. 

After getting stitches for a gash in my forehead I went about life as an 18 year old. It was more than a year later that I began to experience increasing neck pain and stiffness, headaches, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. 

I’m forever grateful to my first chiropractor for the care he provided me and forever regretful that it took more than a year to get the care. 

The Top 5 Critical Don’ts for Whiplash Treatment

Look at that list of symptoms and conditions that frequently arise for Whiplash. This is not an injury to take lightly, even if you were involved in a low speed fender bender. Research at Yale University found that collisions at a speed as slow as 8.2 mph were sufficient to injure the occupants of the vehicle. 

And, don’t make the mistake of assuming that if the vehicle sustained relatively minor damage that the same applies to you. Actually, the opposite is often true. Modern car bumpers and fenders are made to absorb the energy of the collision. When this happens the force is transmitted to the occupants. 

Have you ever watched a high speed collision in an auto race? Those vehicles are constructed to almost explode with a collision so that the vehicle absorbs the forces and less is transmitted to the driver. Often those drivers climb out of the demolished car and walk away. 

The range and severity of symptoms is an indication of how much damage a Whiplash Injury can cause. Let’s start with 5 Critical Don’ts when it comes to Whiplash Treatment:

Critical Don’t #1: DO NOT assume you haven’t been injured. Symptoms can take days and even weeks to show up. Do not delay getting evaluated.

Critical Don’t #2: DO NOT apply heat to your injuries for at least a week. Heat increases blood flow with any tissue damage that can greatly and unnecessarily increase swelling and inflammation. The problem is that heat often feels good and reduces pain and spasm temporarily.

Critical Don’t #3: DO NOT rely on pain medication, especially opioids and narcotics to dull the pain so you can resume your normal activities. Pain from Whiplash is an indication of tissue damage and if you cover up the pain you risk further damaging those tissues.

Critical Don’t #4: DO NOT immobilize your neck with a cervical collar without removing it frequently and moving your neck slowly through your range of motion. Also, do not rely on a cervical collar any longer than absolutely necessary as it can both slow the healing and result in less functional healing. 

Critical Don’t #5: DO NOT rely on your primary care for your Whiplash treatment. This is not their specialty and they are most likely to prescribe analgesics, anti-inflammatories, and muscle relaxants, none of which promote healing. 

The Top 5 Critical Do’s for Whiplash Treatment

Getting the proper Whiplash Treatment is critical to your long term healing. Soft tissue injuries heal in three stages:

  1. Acute Inflammatory Phase
  2. Repair Phase
  3. Remodeling Phase

Proper treatment is essential to stimulating healing that results in the fewest long term complications and challenges as a result of the soft tissue healing process. 

Critical Do #1: DO get examined by a practitioner who has studied the long term impact of Whiplash-Associated Disorders and how to most effectively treat them. Chiropractors skilled and knowledgeable in these injuries are the experts in Whiplash Treatment. Depending on the severity other practitioners such as Neurologists, Orthopedists, and Pain Management Specialists might be needed. 

Critical Do #2: DO undergo the appropriate diagnostic imaging. It is impossible to accurately assess the degree of damage without diagnostic imaging like motion study x-rays, CT Scans, and MRI. Each assesses different tissues. 

The motion x-rays can tell if the joints have undergone damage resulting in instability and disc thinning.

The CT Scans are often used to assess trauma to the brain.

MRI is the gold standard in evaluation injuries to the discs. 

Critical Do #3: DO follow through with your Whiplash Treatment. Treatment of these injuries requires consistent and regular care over a period of months to ensure proper healing and minimal long term complications. 

Critical Do #4: DO receive care from a practitioner skilled in supporting you through the three stages of soft tissue healing. Since the most significant injury that can be treated is that to the small joints of the neck a skilled chiropractor is the ideal choice. Most Physical Therapists lack the understanding and experience to properly care for whiplash injuries. 

Critical Do #5: DO adhere to your home self-care instructions. Motion is one of the keys to facilitate soft tissue healing. Understanding both proper motion of the neck as well as the positions and movements that add stress to the injured tissues is critical for your long term recovery. 

Whiplash injuries can be devastating. Some of the worst long term complications come from people who didn’t think they were badly injured and never sought treatment. These people frequently show up in my office years and even decades later suffering from neck pain, numbness and tingling in their arms and hands, and frequent headaches among other things. 

While we are almost always successful in providing relief and improving their function the damage has been done. Motion x-rays of these people always shows degenerative arthritis, disc thinning, reduction or reversal of the cervical curve, and altered movement patterns in the neck.

If you or a family member has experienced whiplash make sure you seek out Whiplash Treatment from a doctor with extensive training and experience in Whiplash Treatment.

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