You were in a minor car accident a few days ago and now you can barely move your neck. You have intense headaches and pain in your shoulders. These are the symptoms of a typical whiplash injury. Your local chiropractor can work with your spine to relieve the pain and speed along the healing. Here is what caused the delayed symptoms and how your chiropractor can help.
Whiplash and Delayed Pain
During the accident, your head was suddenly forced backward, then forward quickly. It happens so quickly that you likely were not aware that it happened. What also happened was that the muscles and other soft tissues in your neck were injured. Tissues were stretched beyond normal and tiny tears occurred. To protect itself, the tissues in your neck around the spine became inflamed to cushion your neck from further damage. You likely had a stiff neck right after the accident, but little to no pain.
A few days later, the inflammation in your neck went down and your body is now responding to the trauma to the soft tissues in your neck. The damaged muscles irritate the nerves traveling through your neck and cause pain in the upper back, shoulders and head. You have intense headaches as the nerves that travel up into your head react to the irritation in the neck.
The pain will go away in a few days or weeks, as the tissues in your neck heal. A visit to a chiropractic care center will speed up the process by helping the muscles to relax and ease the tension on the nerves.
Spinal Treatment and Whiplash
Your chiropractor is intimately knowledgeable with the tissues around the spine and how they are affected by the vertebrae being out of alignment. When the spine is in its proper alignment, there is less stress on the muscles and nerves around the spine. This helps the inflammation go away sooner while reducing your pain. The chiropractor relies on two techniques to return your spine to its normal position: manipulation and traction.
The chiropractor will examine your spine for vertebrae that have been slightly forced out of alignment by the accident. Called a subluxation, this often occurs between the first two vertebrae in your spine. During a spinal manipulation, the chiropractor will move your head, neck, shoulders and arms through various positions to coax the vertebrae back into place. You may get some relief after the first session, but may require follow up spinal manipulations. As the inflammation goes down in your neck, the spine will become easier to manipulate.
If you still have significant inflammation in your neck, it will be difficult to move the vertebrae in your spine back into place. Traction is used to slowly ease up the tension in your neck so the vertebrae can move back into place. With this technique, you will rest on a table with your head and neck in a sling. A set of weights or a special machine are used to pull gently on your neck, stretching the spine slightly. This helps to reduce the inflammation in the neck so your vertebrae can be moved around more freely.
Spinal treatment for whiplash focuses on reducing the inflammation in your neck and restoring your spine to its proper alignment. Once this has been accomplished, you'll have less pain while the injured muscles continue to heal.