For your chiropractor to offer proper care for your whiplash injury, it’s essential for you to remember the details of your accident. Were you wearing your seat belt? Was the car moving or stopped? What type of impact was it, rear or frontal? Did pain occur instantly? It’s challenging for chiropractors to care for whiplash injuries because of the variables they must consider. Answering your chiropractor’s questions as best you can will help with your care.
Some chiropractors categorize their diagnosis according to four stages. If you complain of some neck pain and stiffness, the injury falls into the category of grade one whiplash. If, however, you have lost motion in the neck and can’t flex, bend, extend or rotate it, your injury will fall into grade two. Grade three whiplash covers any injury that involves neurological symptoms such as numbness, weakness, tingling, or hot and cold sensations. Grade four is reserved for trauma that causes any sort of fracture in the spine.
After your chiropractor has diagnosed and classified your whiplash, he or she will get you started on a program of care. Initially, he or she will probably recommend that you apply ice to your neck. This will prevent further swelling and reduce pain, by constricting blood vessels, numbing pain receptors and decreasing blood flow to the affected area. It may also be necessary for your chiropractor to perform an adjustment, also known as spinal manipulative therapy, to the affected areas of the spine. This will return joints that are out of place to their correct position, increase the joints’ range of motion, relax tight muscles, increase blood flow and decrease inflammation.
In the initial stages of whiplash injury, your chiropractor may also care for you with physiotherapeutic tools like ultrasound, interferential current (IFC), and cold laser therapy. Ultrasound refers to any sound wave that has a frequency above the range the human ear can perceive. Depending on the frequency, this can increase blood flow, decrease pain, reduce muscle spasm, lessen nerve root irritation, break down scar tissue and speed healing.
IFC works in a similar way, but sends electrical waves through the body instead of sound waves. These painless, mild electrical waves penetrate the skin into nerve fibers below, which causes the body to produce endorphins, its natural painkillers. By aiming the impulses at the cervical spine, your chiropractor can cause endorphins to interrupt the flow of pain signals from the affected tissues to the brain. IFC also helps decrease inflammation and speed up the healing process.
The goal of cold laser therapy is to deliver light energy units from infrared laser radiation, called photons, to damaged cells. The consensus of experts is that photons absorbed by the cells through laser therapy stimulate the mitochondria to accelerate production of ATP. This biochemical increase in cell energy is used to transform live cells from a state of illness to a stable, healthy state.
After a whiplash injury, you should also avoid sports that put your neck at risk, like football, soccer and hockey, until your injury has fully healed. But that doesn’t mean you should be inactive. As soon as your pain decreases, your chiropractor will probably recommend that you perform a number of activities, including stretching, strengthening, proprioceptive, postural and aerobic exercises. These will help restore motion in your neck and strengthen muscles so that they are better able to provide support and stability.
By combining regular adjustments and therapy with an exercise program, you can overcome the symptoms of whiplash and avoid chronic symptoms that might otherwise linger for years.