Whiplash is an injury to the neck muscles from rapid forward and backward motion of the neck caused by a trauma (eg, a car accident). It can cause acute (short-term) neck pain as well as restricted movement in your neck.
How Does a Chiropractor Diagnose a Whiplash Injury?
Dr. Kurth will evaluate your spine as a whole if you are complaining of neck pain following a trauma. He or she will examine the entire spine because other regions of the spine may be affected (not just your neck). Next we identify any areas of restricted joint motion, intervertebral disc injury, muscle spasm, and ligament injury. I may use a technique called motion and static palpation—diagnostic techniques that involve touch. Your chiropractor will also feel for tenderness, tightness, and how well your spinal joints move. It is important to analyze how a patient is walking , and take note of your posture and spinal alignment. These details will help understand your body's mechanics and how your spine works, helping with the diagnosis process.
In addition to a evaluation of your spine, an x-ray or an MRI of your spine to evaluate any degenerative changes that may have existed before your whiplash injury. The diagnostic images and results of your physical and neurological evaluation are compared to develop the best treatment plan.
Stages of Whiplash Treatment
Soon after whiplash occurs—in the acute phase—we will work on reducing neck inflammation using various therapy modalities (eg, ultrasound). Gentle stretching and manual therapy techniques (eg, muscle energy therapy, a type of stretching).
Chiropractic Treatments for Whiplash
Your treatment plan depends on the severity of your whiplash injury. The most common chiropractic technique is spinal manipulation. Some spinal manipulation techniques commonly used are:
specific spinal manipulation: Dr. Kurth identifies spinal joints that are restricted or show abnormal motion (called subluxations). Using this technique, pain will decrease and help restore motion to the joint with a gentle thrusting technique. This gentle thrusting stretches soft tissue and stimulates the nervous system to restore normal motion to the spine.
In addition to spinal manipulation, we also use manual therapy to treat injured soft tissues (eg, ligaments and muscles). Some examples of manual therapies your chiropractor may use are:
manual joint stretching and resistance techniques: An example of a manual joint therapy is muscle energy therapy.
therapeutic massage: may perform therapeutic massage to ease muscle tension in your neck.
trigger point therapy: Dr. Kurth will identify specific hypertonic (tight), painful points of a muscle by putting direct pressure (using his or her fingers) on these specific points to alleviate muscle tension.
Dr. Kurth may also use other therapies to help reduce neck inflammation caused by whiplash. Examples of other therapies your chiropractor may use are:
interferential electrical stimulation: This technique uses a low frequency electrical current to help stimulate muscles, which can ultimately reduce inflammation.
ultrasound: By increasing blood circulation, ultrasound can help decrease muscle spasms, stiffness, and pain in your neck. Ultrasound does this by sending sound waves deep into muscle tissues. This creates a gentle heat that increases circulation.
How Does a Chiropractor Help Treat Whiplash?
Chiropractors look at the whole person—not just the painful problem. They view neck pain as unique to each patient, so they don’t just focus on your neck pain. They emphasize prevention as the key to long-term health. In addition to these treatments, your chiropractor may also prescribe therapeutic exercises to help restore normal motion in your spine and reduce whiplash symptoms.
Using these chiropractic techniques, a chiropractor will help you increase your daily activities. He or she will work hard to address any mechanical (how the spine moves) or neurological (nerve-related) causes of your whiplash.
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flexion-distraction technique: This hands-on technique is a gentle, non-thrusting type of spinal manipulation to help treat herniated discs with or without arm pain. Your whiplash injury may have aggravated a bulging or herniated disc. Dr. Kurth uses a slow flexion/extension type action on the disc instead of direct force to the spine.
instrument-assisted manipulation: This technique is another non-thrusting technique often used. Using a specialized hand-held instrument, I applied force without thrusting into the spine. This type of manipulation is useful for older patients who have a degenerative joint syndrome.