What are the Symptoms of Whiplash?

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Let’s talk about whiplash. Whiplash is a very complex injury that most commonly occurs from a rear-impact motor vehicle accident. The external forces that are placed upon the body during a car accident are significant and when those forces exceed our body’s ability to adapt, injury occurs. Whiplash can however; occur from other types of car accidents, sports injuries, and other high impact activities. Because of the complex nature of whiplash it can be a confusing and sometimes scary condition to have. In fact, whiplash symptoms often do not present until 24 hours or more following the initial accident so people sometimes dismiss symptoms that arise following a car accident. Also, because whiplash is a complex injury to the soft tissues and spinal joints, the first 2-4 weeks post-injury can be very interesting. I my experience in treating these conditions the symptoms have a way of fluctuating during this time period so it is very important to me to keep close tabs on my patients and have a very open dialogue as to what they are experiencing. So what are the symptoms of whiplash?

Neck Pain

This is obviously the most common symptom associated with whiplash injury, but it can also be the most complex. The cervical spine is an intricate biomechanical structure of bones, joints, muscles, and other connective tissue that when damaged can cause significant pain and disability. During a car accident the head and neck are violently forced into hyperextension followed by extreme forward flexion (hyperflexion). This motion causes damage to the muscles, ligaments, and spinal joints. This damage can be a significant pain generator and requires very specific treatment to ensure full recovery.

Arm Pain/Numbness

Arm pain and numbness is often associated with injury to the cervical spine. Shoulder and arm pain can be referred pain from the neck or the pain can arise from injured nerve tissue as it exits the cervical region. Referred pain is usually dull, achy and generally more diffuse in nature, while nerve root pain is usually more precise, burning, and tingling in nature as it travels all the way down the arm and into the hand.

Shoulder Pain

Shoulder injuries occur due the fact that you are holding onto the steering wheel. As the force of the accident travels through your body, the impact in the shoulder joint can be significant. Most commonly in the rotator cuff, it is documented that shoulder injuries occur in up to 53% of patients presenting with whiplash.

Lower Back Pain

Most people don’t associate lower back pain with whiplash symptoms, but research shows that lower back pain exists in 40-48% of whiplash patients. While lower back injury isn’t a whiplash, it is very commonly associated with other whiplash symptoms.

Neurological Symptoms

A very important grouping of symptoms to be on the lookout for are a myriad of neurological symptoms. Due to the violent movement of the head and neck during a whiplash injury the brain can move excessively in the skull creating a mild traumatic brain injury. This is essentially a concussion injury and can become complex in severe cases. The neurological symptoms associated with a whiplash injury can vary from case to case, but typically involve confusion or brain fog, anxiety, behavioral changes, difficulty focusing on multiple tasks, dizziness, and balance issues. If these symptoms appear it is very important to take them seriously, so you and your doctor can work together to facilitate complete recovery.

Putting it all Together - Whiplash Management

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As you can see whiplash can be a very convoluted injury process so the most important thing to do is get with a doctor that can help you through the process from injury to full recovery. The first 3 months following the accident are a critical window to get treatment, so you can avoid chronic problems in the future. The chiropractic physicians at Pro Chiropractic are uniquely positioned to aid you through this difficult process. We combine the most advanced diagnostic and treatment modalities with highly trained chiropractic physicians to develop a plan to aid you in full recovery.

For more information please call the Auto Accident Doctors at Pro Chiropractic at 406-219-2462.