Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Whiplash Can Cause Permanent Damage

Have you been involved in a car accident or sports injury? Have you had any stiffness or pain in your neck, upper back, or shoulders? Then you may be suffering from whiplash. Each year 1.99 million Americans are injured in whiplash accidents, so you are not alone.

Whiplash is a neck injury caused by a rapid movement of the head forward, backward, or side to side. This motion can cause brain injury, muscle spasms or tearing, ligament stretching and instability, and even fractures to the spine that can cause permanent disability. Car accidents that occur at 5mph or more can cause soft tissue damage and injury to the soft tissue even if the vehicles involved don't show any damage. The damage to your vehicle can be very misleading since most vehicles don't show damage until 10mph or more. In a recent report, most whiplash injuries occur at speeds below 12mph and symptom onset is usually delayed by a day or two. Many people incorrectly believe that if they don't have pain directly after the accident they weren't injured and may not seek treatment until serious symptoms develop which can result in permanent damage if delayed too long.

A whiplash injury can affect the structure and stability of the neck and can cause permanent and lasting damage if not healed correctly. The ligaments that run along the front and back of your spine that lend stability and support to your neck can be stretched out in a whiplash injury. In a 2012 study released by the Journal of Biomechanics, these ligaments can stretch three to five times their normal length after a whiplash injury. The stability of the neck at this point is completely compromised and comparable to a neck with ligaments that are completely torn. If you were involved in an accident and haven't been evaluated by your doctor or chiropractor you should make an appointment today.  The sooner you seek treatment for whiplash, the better your outcomes will be.

Here's a short animation video of what is going on not only in your spine, but also your brain in a rear ended car accident.
As you can see from the above video there is first a rear extension motion of the neck against the headrest causing ligament and soft tissue stretching and tearing as well as brain injury as the brain moves backward against the skull. This first phase is followed by a forward acceleration of the head which can cause further brain injury, shear forces on the spinal cord, ligament damage, and even spinal fractures. The third phase of whiplash continues with a hyper-extension motion of the head backward into the head rest which can further injure the delicate brain with concussion and possible bleeding, stretch the damaged soft tissues of the ligaments and muscles in the neck, and put the occupant at risk for spinal fracture that can lead to instant death or paralysis.

Common Symptoms of Whiplash
Below find a list of the most common whiplash symptoms as well as their rates of occurrence. If you're experiencing any of the below symptoms please call (309) 689-6200 to schedule a consultation in our office today.

Neck pain and/or stiffness 92%
Headache 57%
Fatigue 56%
Shoulder pain 49%
Anxiety 44%
Pain between the shoulder blades 42%
Low back pain 39%
Sleep disturbance 39%
Upper limb numbness/tingling 30%
Sensitivity to noise 29%
Difficulty concentrating 26%
Blurred vision 21%
Irritability 21%
Difficulty swallowing 16%
Dizziness 15%
Forgetfulness 15%
Upper limb pain 12%
Upper limb weakness 6%
Ringing in the ears 4%
Pain in the jaw or face 4%

If you or someone you know has been involved in a motor vehicle accident, I highly recommend you see a physician to assess for damage to the brain, nervous system, muscles, ligaments, and possible fracture.