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Car Accidents & Whiplash Injury Care
———–Fast Forward, Short Story for the busy reader: Whiplash and other injures resulting can show themselves weeks or months after your auto ————-accident. Your auto insurance usually covers injury but you should seek an evaluation as quickly as possible to evaluate all soft tissue injury ————not just broken bones. Here at Painless Chiropractic in Fenton MI we see victims of car accidents frequently and have great success treating ————their injuries. We deal directly with your auto insurance company, file all necessary paperwork for you and even help your attorney with any ———–necessary paperwork they need for your claim. We are highly experienced with the treatment of whiplash and any and all vehicle related ————–injures and are always here, happy to help in any way we can.
If you or your family have been involved in an automobile accident, possible whiplash injuries need to be taken seriously. Symptoms of a whiplash injury can take weeks or months to show itself which can result in you being fooled into thinking that you are not as injured as you really are. Too often people don’t seek treatment following a car accident simply because they don’t feel hurt right away. At times, they have already spoken to their auto insurance company and told them they felt ok. This is nothing to fear because the fact is, the most common injury to the neck is a whiplash injury and it’s known, that whiplash is not always noticed right away due to an adrenaline rush, directly after the accident. Whiplash is caused by a sudden movement of the head, either forward, backward or sideways, that results in the damage to the supporting soft tissues, muscles, ligaments and other connective tissues in the neck and upper back. Just because you don’t have broken bones, does not mean you are not injured nor does it mean that long term injury has not occurred.
Unfortunately, by the time more serious complications develop, some of the damage from your injury may have already became permanent. Countless studies have shown that roughly half of whiplash victims state that years after their insurance claims have been settled, they still suffer with symptoms from their injuries, injuries that we know could have been avoided if they would have had a proper evaluation and care after the accident. If you have been in a motor vehicle or any other kind of accident, don’t assume that you escaped injury simply because there are no broken bones and you are not currently in pain.
Furthermore, a concussion may result along with whiplash. A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). It can occur after an impact to your head or after a whiplash-type injury that causes your head and brain to shake quickly back and forth. During a whiplash injury, along with the soft-tissues of the neck being injured, there could be direct contact from the head to a solid surface. A blow to the head can produce jarring, shaking, or excessive movement of the brain, inside of the skull. This would be a logical circumstance in which concussion could occur. After being injured you many feel like you have a headache after a concussion of this type. The term “whiplash”or whiplash injuries frequently do not result from hyperextension or hyperflexion (extension and flexion beyond normal physiological limits), but rather an extremely rapid extension and flexion that causes injuries.
Due to their complicated nature of soft tissue damage and impact on peoples lives, few topics in health care generate as much controversy as whiplash injuries. Luckily we have the ability to show whiplash injury pretty clearly with our diagnostic procedures here at our Fenton Chiropractic office Painless Chiropractic. Unlike dealing with the obverse injury like a broken bone, where with a simple x-ray you can visibly see the brake or fracture and the go to care plan is standard across the board. Whiplash injuries involve a combination of the nervous system, muscles, joints and connective tissue that is not as quite as simple to diagnose, and for some hard to treat. Our head chiropractor Dr. James Ide has been has been very successful at creating a all inclusive treatment plan set up to treat whiplash injury.
In order to help you understand the nature of whiplash injuries and how they should be treated, it is necessary to spend a bit of time discussing the mechanics of how whiplash injuries occur.
The Phases of a Whiplash Injury
When involved in a back, rear end automobile collision, your entire body goes through an aggressive, rapid & intense acceleration followed by a stop or deceleration. Its crazy to think about the fact that all 4 phases of whiplash injury happen in less than 1.5 a second! During each stage of whiplash injury, there is a different, yet strong force acting against your body that contributes to your overall injury, and during such a sudden moment with such great force, its no surprise that damage to the soft tissue, ligaments, nerves, discs, muscles, and vertebra of your neck and spine can and does happen.
In the mists of an automobile accident, initially your car suddenly begins to be pushed out from underneath of you, causing the middle of your back to push against the seat and be flattened. The short process places an upward force in your neck (cervical spine), compressing your discs and joints. As this happens, your seat back begins to accelerate your torso forward and your head moves backward, creating a great deal of force in your neck. Lets say for argument sake, your head rest is adjusted properly, in that case the distance your head travels back toward the seat is limited. However, studies show that most of the damage to your spinal column will occur just before your head hits back on your head rest. They also have shown that head restraints actually only reduce the risk of injury by about 11-20% on average.
By this time your torso has reached its peak acceleration, most are surprised to know that, that speed is ruffly said to be 1.5 to 2 times that of your vehicle itself however, your head hasn’t yet started to move forward, at this point it continues to move backward or rearward. A very abnormal S-curve develops in your upper spine as your seat back jerks forward, much like a spring, adding to the forward acceleration of your body. Unfortunately, during this motion of your seat jerking forward is happening while your head is still moving backward, resulting in a blunt type of force in the neck which is one of the most damaging aspects of a whiplash injury. Most of the injures we see when treating whiplash at our clinic is a direct result from the damaging stage.
At this point your back has started moving back down into your seat, your head and neck are at their fastest and intense forward acceleration, yet your car is starting to slow down. If you happen to have let up on your brake during the first phases of the accident, you probably reapplied the pressure at this point. Unfortunately it is a involuntary reaction and most likely a needed one however, this causes your car to slow down even faster and increases the intensity of the flexion injury of your (cervical spine) neck. As you move forward in your seat, your seat-belt quickly tightens to hold you in place.
This is probably the most damaging phase of a whiplash injury. In the fourth stage, your torso and shoulder are suddenly halted by your seat belt and your head is free to move forward unimpeded. This entire process results in your neck pressing into a violent forward-bending motion, this strains the ligaments and muscles, actually tearing fibers in the spinal discs, and forcing vertebrae out of their normal properly aligned position. Your spinal cord and nerve roots get irritated and stretched, and this is the point a concussion can and often times does occur. Due to the force, your brain be forced forward and can strike the inside of your skull causing a mild to moderate brain injury. If you are not properly restrained by your seat harness, you may suffer a concussion simply because of the force, or even a more severe brain injury, if you happen to strike the windshield or steering wheel.
Injuries Resulting from Whiplash Trauma
Whiplash injuries can begin to show themselves in a variety of ways and if you or someone you know has been involved in an accident and are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should play it safe and have an evaluation from a doctor that has specific training and skills to properly diagnose your soft tissue injuries. Symptoms including neck stiffness and pain, fatigue, headaches, upper or lower back and shoulder pain, cognitive changes and low back pain. Numerous factors play into the entirety of a whiplash injury, items such as the direction of the impact, the speed of each of the vehicles, along with the build, gender, age and health of those involved. It is impossible to predict the pattern of symptoms that each individual will suffer however it is treatable. Additionally, due to the fact that whiplash symptoms often times have a delayed onset and in many cases, taking weeks or months to show themselves people have a tendency to delay treatment.
Neck Pain and Stiffness
Understandably so, neck pain is the single most common complaint in whiplash injury, over 90% of those involved state it is the number one symptom. Pain that radiates across the top of the shoulders and up to the head and then down the spine, between the shoulder blades. The neck, including the facet joints and discs between the vertebrae, as well as all of the muscles, ligaments and nerves are all effected during a whiplash injury.
The facet joints are the joints in your spine that make your back flexible and enable you to bend and twist. Facet joint pain is usually felt on the back area of your neck, more on one side or the other of the spine and is the most common cause of neck pain after an accident. Facet joint pain is tender to the touch but can not be seen on x-rays or MRIs. It can only be diagnosed by a skilled doctor using physical palpation of the neck area.
The disc’s of the spine are composed of a capsule of connective tissue surrounding a soft, jellylike center. These discs absorb shock and provide flexibility within the spine. Disc injury is also a common cause of neck pain after a whiplash injury; especially severe, chronic pain. The outer wall of the disc area which is called the anulus, is made up of tiny bundles of nerve fibers that can often get torn during a whiplash injurt. Injury to the discs can lead to disc degeneration or herniation, resulting in irritation or squeezing of the nerves running through your neck, thus diminishing the brain body communication ability. Common symptoms that can result after such an injury is pain into the arms, shoulders and upper back, and may even lead to muscle weakness.
During the first few weeks after a car accident that results in whiplash injury your muscles and ligaments in your neck and your upper back can be a major cause of pain which is why many people tend to experience restricted range of motion and stiffness. As the muscles have a chance to heal, they typically don’t cause as much actual pain yet they still contribute to abnormal movement. Left untreated, damage to the ligaments often results in abnormal movement and instability which can lead to long term damage.
Typically about 80% of those who come in seeking treatment for whiplash experience headaches after their initial neck pain. If you have been in an accident and started to experience headaches, be forewarned, some headaches are actually the result of a direct brain injury, most are however related to injury of the muscles, ligaments and facet joints of the cervical spine, which refer pain to the head. To be safe, it is always important to seek treat and be properly evaluated from a provider that is trained and certified in automobile injury, providers who are trained to looking for more than just broken bones.
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction or TMJ can result from a whiplash injury and can be treated with traditional whiplash treatments however it is less common than other symptoms. TMJ symptoms usually start with pain, clicking or popping noises and motions in the jaw while chewing, talking or just moving it around. TMJ issues can lead to headaches, ear pain, jaw pain and make eating and speaking difficult. TMJ can result from a combination of many different reasons, definitely not just from a whiplash injury but rest assure if you are experiencing this, it can be treated and treated very successfully at our Fenton Chiropractic office, Painless Chiropractic.
As crazy as it is to consider but mild to moderate brain injury is very common after a car accident where whiplash injury has occurred. The harsh forces on the brain during the stages we went over earlier are extensive. You must consider how delicate your brain or your child’s brain actually is. The human brain is made up of a very soft tissue structure which is suspended in a watery fluid. If you can imagine this, you can see how when your brain is forced forward and backward in your skull, your brain will literally bounce off of the inside of your skull, causing bruising, even bleeding inside of the brain itself. In some cases, those injured lose consciousness and have symptoms of a mild to moderate concussion. However in many instances, there is no loss of consciousness, but patients complain of mild confusion or disorientation just after the automobile accident. The long-term results of a just a mild brain injury can include but is not limited to mild confusion, sleep disturbances, concentration issues, irritability, forgetfulness, loss of sex drive, unstable mood, depression and emotional highs and lows. Although less common, the nerves responsible for your sense of smell, taste and even your vision may be affected as well, resulting in a muted sense of taste, changes in your sensation of smell and visual disturbances.
Dizziness is generally pretty temporary following a whiplash injury following a whiplash injury and typically improved significantly with chiropractic care. Just as chiropractic care improves vertigo, it works in the same manor. The facet joints of the cervical spine are often damaged which is one of the reasons that the dizziness can occur. In some cases injury to the brain or brain stem may be a factor as well which again is why it is always vital to be evaluated after an automobile accident.
Low Back Pain
Though generally speaking, whiplash injury is considered to be an injury of the neck, in more than half of rear impact care collision back injury is also reported. It is very common for the low back to be injured during an accident. Low back injury is also very common in side-impact collisions, occurring ruffly about three quarters of the time. This is mostly due to the fact that the low back still experiences a tremendous amount of compression while moving through the first two stages of a whiplash injury, even though it does not have the degree of flexion-extension injury experienced in the neck, it still has great and intense motion.
Recovery from Whiplash
After a proper evaluation and whiplash treatments begin, many mild whiplash injuries heal within six to nine months. However keep in mind, more than 20% of those who suffer from whiplash injuries continue to suffer from pain, weakness or restricted movement two years after their accident. There are many contributing factors to why this is the case and one is most definitely the fact that many people do not fully commit themselves to their recovery. Missing appointments, not following through with at home care and overdoing it, placing stress on the body all are contributing factors. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those who fall into that 20% will continue to suffer from some level of disability or pain for many years after there accident, if not for the rest of their lives.
Whiplash is a unique condition that requires proper evaluation and specific diagnostic testing with the expertise of a skilled health professional that is specially trained to work with these types of injuries. The most effective treatment for whiplash injuries is a combination of chiropractic care, rehabilitation of the soft tissues and specially assigned home care.
Whiplash Treatment Protocol
Chiropractic care at our Fenton Chiropractic office, Painless Chiropractic utilizes many different treatment options which are all based off of the individuate patient. Treatments that may be included in whiplash related injuries would be such things as manual or instrument assisted manipulation of the spine to restore the normal range of motion and proper curve positioning of the spinal vertebrae, decompression therapy, corrective care treatments to help improve the curvature structure. The main focus is to be sure the body is properly functioning for pain relief of course but also for full range of motion and most importantly to remove any interference on the nervous system, allowing the brain and body to communicate fully so the brain is able to manage and heal the body as it was designed to. Our Chiropractic Whiplash Treatment Protocol is by far the single-most effective treatment for minimizing the long-term impact of whiplash injuries, especially when coupled, trigger point therapy, exercise rehabilitation and other soft tissue rehabilitation treatments.
Soft Tissue Rehabilitation
The term ‘soft tissue’ simply refers to anything that is not bone, such as your muscles, ligaments, tendons, nervous system, spinal discs and internal organs. During a whiplash injury, the tissues that are affected most are the soft tissues, the muscles, ligaments and discs in particular. In order to minimize permanent impairment and disability, it is important to use therapies that stimulate the soft tissues to heal correctly. These include massage therapy, electro-stimulation, trigger point therapy, stretching and specific strength and range of motion exercises.
Assigned Home Care
To help speed up your recovery it is important that your plan of care extends into the hours and days between in office treatments. If you are re-injuring the area or putting too much stress on your body at home on a daily basis your whiplash treatments of chiropractic care and soft tissue rehabilitation will be limited in its effect which is partially what makes home care so important. Unfortunately many people forget or don’t realize the importance of following through with their sell managed home care. On top of assigned stretches and exercises you many be told to apply ice packs, limit work or normal daily activities, take particular nutritional supplements and as always suggested, get of fluids and plenty of rest.
In some severe cases of whiplash, it may be necessary to have some additional medical care as part of your overall treatment plan. The most common medical treatments include the use of pain pills, anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, trigger point injections and, in some cases, epidural spinal injections. These therapies should only be used as a last resort and when used, only be used for short-term pain relief as they only mask the underlying condition which is the root cause of the problem. This type of care is more of a band-aid rather than a true treatment. After all, a drug cannot remove the pressure off of the nervous system nor can it restore normal joint movement and stimulate healthy muscle repair. Fortunately, surgery is only needed in some cases of herniated discs, when the disc is pressing on the spinal cord, and in some cases of spine fractures. After a full and thorough evaluation, our specialists can determine if prescription medication or care is needed in conjunction with your chiropractic whiplash care and if necessary will refer you to a local MD or pain management physician that will work with your auto insurance.
Document Your Injuries!
Its very important to have each and every one of your injuries well documented not only directly after your car accident has occurred but as you go through the following weeks in case of other irritations arise. In some cases, some of your injures could be permanent or you may have residual pain after your treatment is completed if this comes to be the case, you will want to maintain communications with your auto insurance company, our office and your lawyer. In the state of Michigan you have many additional rights for seeking healthcare and loss of work after an accident. You can download a guide here for Michigan’s No Fault Insurance by: Clicking HERE. Once your insurance company settles your case, your care is no longer covered. You may need care in the future and this needs to be documented. Our Fenton based chiropractic office does our very best to have well documented notes and in some cases has testified in court as an expert medical witness. When seeking whiplash treatment it’s important to carefully pick a doctor with plenty of experience who knows what to look for after an accident and what to do to treat whiplash effectively along with the mechanisms of injury and possible long term effects.