Neck strain is commonly referred to as whiplash. Although it is usually associated with car accidents, any type of impact or blow that causes your head to jerk forward and, or backward can cause neck strain. Whiplash occurs when a sudden force stretches and tears the muscles and tendons in your neck. Neck strains are often confused with the injury neck sprains; however, they are a bit different. Neck strains are caused by damage to the muscle or tendons (bands of tissue that help connect the muscles to bones). Neck sprains however happen when there is tearing of the ligaments (tissues that connect the bones to one another).
“Whiplash defined by The Mayo Clinic is a neck injury due to a forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip. Whiplash most often occurs during a rear-end auto accident, but the injury can also result from a sports accident, physical abuse or another form of trauma”.
The Four Stages of Whiplash in Car Accidents
During this first stage your car starts to push out from under you, which causes your mid-back to become flattened against the back of your seat. This results in an upward force in your cervical spine, compressing your discs and joints. As the back of your seat begins to thrust your torso forward, your head in turn moves backward (this creates the shearing force in your neck). If your seat’s head rest is adequately adjusted, the distance your head travels backward is limited.
During the second stage your torso will have reached peak acceleration (1.5-2 times faster than your vehicle itself upon impact), but your head still hasn’t begun to accelerate forward and thus continues to move rearward. An abnormal S-curve starts to develop in your spine as the back of your seat recoils forward which adds to the forward acceleration of the body’s torso. Many of the bone, joint, nerve, disc and TMJ injuries that happen occur during stage two.
In the third stage your torso is now beginning to descend back down into your seat and your head and neck are still at their peak forward acceleration; at this same time, your car is now slowing down. *If within the first stage you released some of the pressure on your brake pedal, it will more than likely be reapplied during this stage. Reapplication of the brake causes your car to slow down faster and increases the severity of the flexion injury*.
Stage four is probably the most damaging stage of whiplash. In the fourth stage your torso is stopped by your seat belt and your head is free to move forward unimpeded. This results in a violent forward-bending motion of the neck; straining the muscles and ligaments, tearing fibers in the spinal discs, and forcing vertebrae out of their normal position. If you are not thoroughly restrained by your seat belt, you are susceptible to a concussion, or a more severe brain injury.
The symptoms of a neck strain (whiplash) can vary in terms of onset and severity.
Here are some of the symptoms that may or may not become present in your case of whiplash:
• A reduction in ability to move the neck
• Neck stiffness and pain
• Pain in arms and hands
• Muscle spasms
• Dizziness and/or vertigo
• Blurred or altered vision
• Ringing in ears
• Sleep disturbances
• Numbness or a pins and needles feeling in the arms and hands
Chiropractors look at the whole person, not just the painful problem. They view neck pain as unique to each patient, so they don’t just focus on your neck pain. The chiropractor will evaluate your spine as a whole, even if you go to a chiropractor complaining of neck pain following a trauma. Our chiropractor will identify any areas of limited joint motion, intervertebral disc injury, muscle spasm, and ligament injury. Our chiropractor will also feel around for tenderness, tightness, and how well your spinal joints move. He will also take note of your body’s posture and spinal alignment. These details will help our physician understand your body's mechanics and how your spine works, helping with your diagnosis. In addition to our chiropractor’s evaluation of your spine, he may order an x-ray or an MRI of your spine to evaluate any degenerative changes that could've possibly existed before your whiplash injury.
Stages of Treatment
Soon after the trauma occurs, the chiropractor will work on reducing neck inflammation using various therapy modalities (i.e., ultrasound), gentle stretching, and manual therapy techniques (i.e., muscle energy therapy, a type of stretching). Our chiropractor may also recommend you apply an ice pack on your neck and/or a light neck support to use for a short period of time. As your neck starts to become less and less inflamed and the pain begins to decrease, our chiropractor will perform gentle spinal manipulation and/or other techniques to restore normal motion to the your neck's spinal joints. Using these types of chiropractic techniques, our chiropractor will help you increase your daily activities once again. Our chiropractor will be dedicated in order to address any mechanical or neurological causes of your underlying pain and issues caused by the neck strain.
As you begin to go through your healing process with our Chiropractor, you may not see each of these techniques used. Every case of neck strain (whiplash) comes with its own set of symptoms. Sometimes the severity of the injury prevents any Chiropractor from using a spinal adjustment method; it would be too harsh on the affected areas and sore muscles. Whatever your particular case of whiplash might be, you can rest assured that our Chiropractor has been trained to help you. With our chiropractor’s arsenal of treatment plans, you’ll be in the best of hands!
Varying Types of Treatments for Whiplash in Jacksonville, FL
As stated previously, an individual’s treatment plan depends on the severity of their whiplash injury. Some of the most common chiropractic techniques used for this type of trauma is spinal manipulation.
Flexion-distraction: This technique is a gentle, non-thrusting type of spinal manipulation to help treat herniated discs with or without arm pain. Your whiplash injury may have aggravated a previous bulging and/or herniated disc.
Instrument-assisted manipulation: This is also a non-thrusting technique chiropractors often use. Using a specialized hand-held instrument, our chiropractor will apply force without thrusting into the spine. This type of manipulation is helpful for older patients that may have a degenerative joint syndrome.
Specific spinal manipulation: Our chiropractor will identify spinal joints that are restricted or show abnormal motion (subluxations). Using this type of technique, he will help restore motion to the joint with a gentle thrusting technique. This gentle thrust stretches soft tissue and stimulates the nervous system to help promote and restore normal motion to the spine.
Chiropractic Adjustment: With spinal manipulation (short thrusts or slower movements) Chiropractors can gently move the involved joint towards the restricted or impaired area. This helps to create mobility and encourages a better healing process.
Muscle Relaxation and Muscle Stimulation: With calm and gentle stretches to the affected muscles, Chiropractors can relieve any type of tension caused by your injury. Sometimes these stretches are also combined with 'finger pressure techniques' on certain pressure points to help relieve you pain.
In addition to the listed above offered treatments, our chiropractor may also use manual therapy to treat the injured soft tissues. A few examples of manual therapies that may be recommended are as follows:
• Instrument-assisted soft tissue therapy: An instrument-assisted technique used to treat injured soft tissues. Our chiropractor will perform gentle repeated strokes using the instrument over the injured area. • Manual joint stretching and resistance techniques: better known as muscle energy therapy.
• Therapeutic massage: Our chiropractor may also perform therapeutic massage to ease muscle tension in your neck.
• Trigger point therapy: Our chiropractor will identify specific tight, painful points of a muscle by putting direct pressure on these specific points to alleviate muscle t