The second most common injury stemming from an auto accident is whiplash and neck pain (according to The Chiropractic Resource Organization). Whiplash is caused when the head is suddenly “whipped” forwards and then backwards which can cause muscles to tear and is felt as soreness, stiffness and extreme pain. More often than not, a whiplash occurs in a rear-end collision, but can happen in other accidents as well. Sometimes, if the whiplash is extremely violent one can suffer traumatic brain injury. Severe whiplash injuries can cause nerve damage, skull fractures and hematomas.
Did you know that according to the ACA, nearly two-thirds of all auto-accident victims suffer from headaches that are caused directly by whiplash? Because of the violent jerking motion, the brain literally bounces around inside the skull which not only causes bruising to the brain and headaches. While headaches come in various degrees of severity, whiplash headaches require further diagnostic testing. Concussions and mild brain injuries are also common from whiplash.
Whiplash and neck pain also can be the precursor to other ailments that are directly caused by a car crash. Ailments such as pinched nerves in the neck or back, tingling into the arms, sciatica, herniated discs can be created by a whiplash injury. When the head snaps back and forth, the nerves at the base of the neck can become damaged and block information flow to and from the brain. Whiplash also occurs to athletes in various sports and is also considered a sports-related injury that Dr. Hess has extensive knowledge and experience in sports therapy. Proper diagnosis and treatment is taken seriously when considering a spinal injury.
Other things you should consider after a car accident
- Sports Injuries (link to landing page)
- Spinal Decompression (link to decompression page)
Auto Accident Whiplash with Neck Pain Assessment with Dr. Hess of Indian River Chiropractic
Dr. Hess’ assessment of a whiplash injury takes into account all the potential threats that stem from the auto accident. Is there spinal damage? Does the patient have back pain? Are there any pinched nerves? Does the patient have numbness or a tingling feeling? Any of these scenarios and more are thoroughly checked out by Dr. Hess who performs a battery of diagnostic tests (remember, a chiropractor specializes in non-invasive and drug-free treatments). Then, Dr. Hess creates a personalized schedule of visits with you, where you might undergo a realignment, massage therapy, and exercises that loosen the tension and relaxes the sore areas to help bring down swelling and lessen the pain of inflamed areas as well.
Auto Accident Whiplash With Neck Pain at Indian River Chiropractic- The Phases of a Whiplash Injury
During a rear-end automobile collision, your body goes through an extremely rapid and intense acceleration and deceleration. In fact, all four phases of a whiplash injury occur in less than one-half of a second! At each phase, there is a different force acting on the body that contributes to the overall injury, and with such a sudden and forceful movement, damage to the vertebrae, nerves, discs, muscles, and ligaments of your neck and spine can be substantial.
During this first phase, your car begins to be pushed out from under you, causing your mid-back to be flattened against the back of your seat. This results in an upward force in your cervical spine, compressing your discs and joints. As your seat back begins to accelerate your torso forward, your head moves backward, creating a shearing force in your neck. If your head restraint is properly adjusted, the distance your head travels backward is limited. However, most of the damage to the spine will occur before your head reaches your head restraint. Studies have shown that head restraints only reduce the risk of injury by 11-20%.
During phase two, your torso has reached peak acceleration – 1.5 to 2 times that of your vehicle itself – but your head has not yet begun to accelerate forward and continues to move rearward. An abnormal S-curve develops in your cervical spine as your seat back recoils forward, much like a springboard, adding to the forward acceleration of the torso. Unfortunately, this forward seat back recoil occurs while your head is still moving backward, resulting in a shearing force in the neck that is one of the more damaging aspects of a whiplash injury. Many of the bone, joint, nerve, disc and TMJ injuries that I see clinically occur during this phase. Only a head restraint in the full extended position provides reduced risk for injury. While a head restraint in the lowest position can act as a fulcrum and can increase injuries to the neck.
During the third phase, your torso is now descending back down in your seat and your head and neck are at their peak forward acceleration. At the same time, your car is slowing down. If you released the pressure on your brake pedal during the first phases of the collision, it will likely be reapplied during this phase. Reapplication of the brake causes your car to slow down even quicker and increases the severity of the flexion injury of your neck. As you move forward in your seat, any slack in your seat belt and shoulder harness is taken up.
This is probably the most damaging phase of the whiplash phenomenon. In this fourth phase, your torso is stopped by your seat belt and shoulder restraint and your head is free to move forward unimpeded. This results in a violent forward-bending motion of your neck, straining the muscles and ligaments, tearing fibers in the spinal discs, and forcing vertebrae out of their normal position. Your spinal cord and nerve roots get stretched and irritated, and your brain can strike the inside of your skull causing a mild to moderate brain injury. If you are not properly restrained by your seat harness, you may suffer a concussion, or more severe brain injury, from striking the steering wheel or windshield.