The term “whiplash” is not a diagnosis any more than the term “sports injury” is a diagnosis. Neither of these terms tell us anything about what tissue or tissues were injured. But both terms are a description of a type of mechanism of injury. The whiplash mechanism is where the human body has outside forces that violently “whip it” and move it faster than the body can react, and this leads to tissue injury and damage.
Pain from a car accident is the result of tissue damage. Car accidents are a unique form of trauma, where forces of compression, tension, shearing, and rotation can combine in a rapid sequence, which is virtually instantaneous and cause internal injury. Car accidents can result in the following injuries:
The severity of bodily injury possible in car accidents can vary depending on the person and the injury itself. Injury may range from mild muscle strains to spinal facet or disc injuries and in severe cases, death.
Commonly injured tissues of the spine in a “whiplash event” include joint ligament sprains and muscle strains.
With these tissues, there are 3 grades or levels of injury:
Sprain/strain injuries are the most easily and rapidly to diagnose, at least initially. Most sprain/strain injuries are initially diagnosed clinically with an appropriate history and physical exam. However, to determine the exact location(s) and severity of sprains, imaging is often required.
Sprain/strain injuries are really tearing injuries. The tears are not replaced in adults with original tissue; your normal healthy elastic tissue that was injured will be replaced with less elastic “scar tissue.” This process can lead to ongoing pain and even arthritis.
Over half of those who are injured will have neck pain up to a year after their accident. Seeking early and appropriate treatment, like the type provided in our St. Paul clinic, is critical. If you are riding with others, it is quite possible that they, too were injured. It would be in every passenger’s best interest to be examined as soon as possible.
However, other tissues can be injured that leading to long-term pain. According to the North American Spine Society (NASS), the most common source of long-lasting pain from a car accident is an injury to the facet joints (sprain) or disc injury, or both. Muscles are rarely the cause of long-term symptoms unless they were injured and have to work hard to protect injured joints and discs.
It is important to begin with an accurate evaluation locating all the bodily damage to determine a complete diagnosis.
Injured patients are often reluctant to see a Doctor of Chiropractic as they are worried about beginning any treatment, without a proper work up. This is understandable. No injury should be treated without a complete evaluation to diagnose what was injured and how badly injured.
At Twin Cities Headache Neck & Back, we don’t begin with treatment, we begin with a complete exam to reach a complete diagnosis. This starts with compassionate listening to your history and symptoms by the doctor. This is followed by a detailed physical exam using orthopedic, neurological and musculoskeletal examination testing.
Based on the symptoms and your examination, the injuries may require imaging, such as plain film x-ray or MRI in order to fully visualize the nature and extent of tissue damage. At our St. Paul chiropractic clinic, we will perform a comprehensive history and exam to arrive at a complete diagnosis and will order any necessary imaging and special tests that may be required.
Following a proper diagnosis, then an evidence-based treatment plan can be created to maximize patient recovery.
Common treatment includes:
Most if not all patients will require medical care in conjunction with chiropractic care, to speed up pain recovery and maximize recovery.
Common medical referrals may include: