The winter weather can wreak havoc on the holiday traveler. Snow and ice make driving treacherous, as 17% of all annual car accidents occur in the winter season. As drivers use extreme caution to minimize their risk of injury on the roadway, it is important to ensure that you also remain aware of your body and the impact that even the tiniest of travel hiccups may have on your physical health.
Whiplash from a Car Accident
Traveling at low speeds may protect a car from any visible damage, but the bodies of the passengers inside the vehicle can still be harmed. For example, a car slips briefly on a patch of ice and bumps into a stopped vehicle. Like the crack of a whip the passengers’ and driver’s heads rapidly shift forward and backward. Even within a vehicle traveling at 5MPH, the body can suffer the damaging effects of whiplash.
Each year, more than 2 million Americans suffer from whiplash or neck pain. Oftentimes, this pain is caused by a car collision or accident. Inclement weather is a major contributor to traffic accidents, with 76,000 people injured annually during snowfall or sleet.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash, true to its name, occurs when the neck acts as a whip. The injury occurs in the neck when the head is jerked or moves forcefully forward and backward. The major symptom of whiplash is neck and shoulder pain; however, the long term symptoms can be much more severe and even appear unrelated.
Historically, whiplash was considered to be generally mild with symptoms persisting from a few days to a few months. Pain was assumed to be localized to the neck and only minor soft tissue damage would occur. Unfortunately, this has been found to be false, as side effects from the trauma can occur more than a decade following the injury and even appear to be unrelated.
What does Whiplash Cause?
The immediate symptoms of whiplash include pain in the neck area, stiffness, headaches, and tension. However, whiplash has also been found to cause chronic neck pain, weakness, headaches, migraines, fibromyalgia, bulging or ruptured discs, TMJ, dizziness, ringing in the ears, premature arthritis, PTSD, and much more. Oftentimes, the time between the initial injury (whiplash) and the symptom is so long that the patient does not even realize that the two are related, let alone that whiplash is the root cause.
What can I do for Whiplash?
Typical treatments for whiplash include several stages. Like concussions, whiplash is often treated as a mild and temporary injury. Rest, hot and cold rotation, and over the counter medications are often prescribed to alleviate the pain. Homecare regimens are most oftentimes considered to be all that is necessary for whiplash injuries, as immediate symptoms are expected to persist for a short period of time.
But what happens if pain persists? Whiplash is unique because the diagnosis of whiplash and its severity can often be complex. Whiplash injuries do not readily appear on imaging tests. Many patients require specialized imaging such as an MRI or CT scan in order to diagnose damage to the discs, muscles or ligaments that are leading to painful whiplash symptoms. Practitioners may prescribe additional medication, physical therapy, or in rare cases, injections or surgery to help relieve intense and severe whiplash symptoms.
In reality, none of the traditional treatments actually correct the most critical component of whiplash which is a condition called the Atlas Subluxation Complex. This condition occurs when one or both of the upper cervical vertebrae (top two bones in the upper neck) become misaligned and cause both neurological and musculoskeletal damage. This condition is most commonly detected through a thorough examination by an Upper Cervical Chiropractor.
Whiplash and Upper Cervical Care
Upper Cervical Care is a specialty within chiropractic that focuses on the upper neck and more importantly, the brainstem. Mild trauma, such as whiplash, can cause an atlas subluxation (neck misalignment) that will often go undetected. This type of injury can lead to years of unnecessary pain and suffering.
If you or a loved one has suffered from whiplash, whether recently or decades in the past, it is time to find the root cause of the lingering symptoms. Don’t live with unnecessary pain or risk further degeneration of the spine due to an untreated misalignment.
Contact your upper cervical chiropractor today for a full comprehensive evaluation.