Whiplash is a painful and debilitating injury often the result of a rear end motor vehicle accident. Essentially the cause of whiplash, or cervical acceleration-deceleration (CAD), is a quick snapping of the head backwards on rear impact coupled with rapid forward head movement. Whiplash syndrome is classically associated with motor vehicle accidents but can certainly be caused by other traumatic events such as a fall.
Common symptoms include cervical pain, headaches associated with increased neck pain, upper back pain and possible pain down one or both of the arms. Weakness, numbness, burning sensation or incoordination of the arms and hands is not usually present, but may be indicative of a more serious injury. Immediate pain upon impact is common although many people note only minor symptoms until 24-48 hours after the accident.
An interesting fact, being struck in the rear end by a car driving 5 mph can exert a G-force of 9 on the cervical spine. Compare that to a top fuel dragster which accelerates at a G-force of roughly 5.4. Increase the speed of the car and the amount of sheer force on the spine increase exponentially. The result can be significant soft tissue and joint damage.
X-rays, MRI and CT scans are often used to rule out more serious conditions especially when significant damage has been done to one or both automobiles. Normal imaging studies usually result in treatment which includes medication for pain management and therapy. Therapy options should be focused on restoring normal range of motion and reducing muscular and joint pain in the acute phase. Once pain levels have been reduced strengthening exercise should be used to finish rehabilitation.
Bryan M. Steele, DC
O’Leary Chiropractic, PLLC