Collision studies have shown that the greatest degree of stress in a
whiplash injury occurs between the 4th and 5th vertebrae when the neck
is snapped back and between the 5th and 6th vertebrae when the neck
snaps forward. If the neck was turned to one side, the extent of the
injury is usually worsened, as shear force and torque (rotational
force) is added.
The degree of injury from a whiplash accident is determined by a
variety of factors. The types of vehicles involved, speed, seat and
headrest construction, whether the vehicle from behind applied the
brakes before the collision (decreases the force) whether the vehicle
in front had the brakes applied when it was struck (increases the
force) are just a few of these factors. Also, each injured
person’s height, age, and current state of health (including
prior injuries to the neck) all play an important role in determining
the extent of the physical damage.
The full effect of the damage from a whiplash injury may not be
experienced until one to three days after the accident. This is
primarily due to two known factors. The first factor is adrenaline.
Large amounts of a hormone called adrenaline are released into the body
when an accident occurs. The affects of adrenaline and the effects of
shock may make many people initially unaware of a neck injury. The
second factor is that for the first 72 hours, the body responds to the
injury with a barrage of chemicals. These chemicals create swelling and
in the presence of swelling comes stiffness, and pain. This is why it
is important not to state “you are fine”
an automobile accident that snaps you head about. It is important to
seek care immediately and have yourself examined for a whiplash injury.
Early treatment is essential to help control the swelling process.
Preferably, care should be obtained within the first six hours after
the injury. If you have been in an automobile accident and were not
taken to a hospital, you should request an emergency appointment from
your Doctor of Chiropractic. Your chiropractor can instruct you on the
proper use of ice, rest, and other measures to reduce the swelling
immediately. Ultrasound treatments or therapy with passive range of
motion to the cervical spine may be started after a diagnosis of
cervical sprain and strain (whiplash) is obtained.
With early chiropractic treatment, several advantages are gained. For
the first 24 – 72 hours, a natural swelling process occurs.
Treatment during this phase reduces the amount of swelling. This
improves your chance for a more rapid and better recovery. Corrective
measures are also easier to apply if the initial phase of
swelling is handled properly through early treatment
There are long-term advantages to early treatment as well. One major
advantage is the decreased risk of arthritis forming in the joints.
Joint arthritis in the neck, called degenerative joint disease, can
occur if the swelling in the joints remains too long or if the tissue
damage cannot be adequately repaired.
Chiropractors treat thousands of neck injury cases each year. Your
chiropractor can help determine the extent of your neck injury through
examination and x-ray. A course of treatment can then be outlined to
help in the recovery process. Chiropractic treatment can help reduce
the initial swelling, aid in the removal of metabolic products that are
created when tissue is injured, and help restore proper function to the
cervical spine and neck muscles.
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Articles are not intended for self-diagnosis or treatment. Users of
this site should consult with their doctors before making any decisions
regarding their health care.
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