Whiplash is a very common injury following a car accident. An impact causes extreme flexing of the neck which then whips in the opposite direction. This mechanism often results in damage to ligaments, tendons and muscles of the neck. The neck is designed to be flexible, as such it is less protected then the rest of your spine making it more vulnerable to injury then your low back.
Many whiplash sufferers do not feel any symptoms immediately after the incident, leaving people thinking they have got away lightly! Symptoms usually appear the day after the incident and can get progressively worse over the next few days. An array of different symptoms can be expected when suffering with Whiplash including; neck and shoulder pain, limited mobility, jaw pain, headaches, pins and needles or numbness into the arms, lower back pain and dizziness.
A diagnosis of whiplash is usually dependant on a thorough history and examination. Unless serious injury is suspected X-Rays or MRI scans are generally not required, as soft tissue injury does not show up on imaging. The length of time it takes to recover from whiplash can vary and is difficult to predict. Many people feel better within a few weeks but in some cases people can still be suffering with pain up to one year on. Factors that affect recovery rate include; previous neck and shoulder pain, occupation and how quickly treatment is sought after the accident. The sooner treatment is received the more quickly we would expect to see a patient recover. Chiropractic treatment for whiplash often involves spinal manipulation and mobilisation, soft tissue work and rehabilitative exercises.
If you are unfortunate enough to be in a car accident our advice is to stay mobile, even if no symptoms are present that day. Gentle stretches and heat are also beneficial in reducing the severity of symptoms.