Whiplash Injury Recovery (Part 1)

Throughout the years, we have seen a number of patients that were involved in car accidents.  Recently, many of the patients cases have involved some form of whiplash injury. This unfortunate event has affected their: work, ability to concentrate, exercise and be productive.  Because of this, we are dedicating extra study to help them get back on their feet. Please note that although whiplash injuries are typically associated with people involved in car accidents, contact sports injuries likehockey, football, soccer, and even the high jump have these types of injuries. Birth trauma and even shaking a baby mimic dynamics similar to a whiplash. 

These next series of blogs are dedicated to help victims of whiplash injuries understand the extent of their injuries and how they can work with their team of providers to get the fastest results from their care.  We encourage our readers to share this information with others who have had accidents or similar injuries.

Whiplash:  What is it?

The term whiplash conjures up a number of images and emotions for people.  Oftentimes, the general use of the term is broad and refers to neck strains that can resolve in a matter of weeks.  However, whiplash accidents more specifically relate to the dynamics of hyperextension first, then hyperflexion injury to the neck and the resulting complications from such a trauma.  Car accidents are by far the most common cause of these injuries due to the extreme acceleration/deceleration that occurs in a rear end collision. The complications from the trauma can range from minor neck strain sprains to quadriplegia or even death.  

How long does it take for whiplash to go away?

When it comes to neck injuries, Whiplash Associated Disorders (WAD) can be one of the most complicated injuries to analyze and treat.  Between the neck and upper back alone there are over 50 potential areas that can be affected. Joints, muscles, ligaments and facets can be strained, irritated and impaired.  In addition, studies show that 30% of neck injuries also have lower back injuries that can affect neck recovery.

If you’re lucky, minor accidents can resolve in a matter of weeks.  However, some studies show that 20-60% of patients still experience pain after six months and up to half of whiplash associated injuries fail to return to work within a year.  The effects of a whiplash can transform the dynamics of a person’s life.   

When is it best to seek treatment for a whiplash?

Victims of whiplash injury often fail to receive care early enough.  They may be symptomatic for days with a stiff neck and think that the pain will just go away.  They may seek painkillers that mask the pain, but only offer temporary relief. Using ice at a frequency of 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off can also assist the body, but neither of these therapies should deter a person from assessing for damage to the neck.  In fact, resting can sometimes make matters worse. Here’s why.

Studies by Croft and Forman consider the first week after an accident as the ‘golden week’ because of the inflammatory reaction during the initial stages of an injury.  Although the body is injured, it is also doing everything it can to heal itself. Scars and adhesions often form during this stage and, if left unchecked, the adhesions can become permanent and attempt to heal a misaligned spine.  This can be analogous to a broken arm that is not set properly to allow healing to occur in a coordinated way. Oftentimes, if a person does not seek care during the initial stages, damage can be permanent and makes it more difficult for a physician to manage a full recovery.

In the upcoming weeks we will discuss topics like

  • Risk Factors that prolong Whiplash Recovery
  • A Holistic approach to examining Whiplash injuries
  • How to identify the bodies priority to heal a Whiplash injury

Feel free to like, comment and share this information to those who need it and if you know anyone that has been involved in a whiplash injury, have them get a checkup even if damage is minor.  Feel free to call or schedule a free consultation with us if you have specific questions.

Drs. Richard Tran and Michelle Hsu

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