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A Brief Overview of Whiplash

22 Nov

Whiplash is a non-medical term that represents a large range of injuries to the neck caused by or related to a rapid, sudden movement of the neck often to and beyond the end-ranges of motion that results in injury to soft tissues and sometimes bony tissues in the neck. Cervical acceleration-deceleration (CAD) describes the mechanism of injury while whiplash associated disorders (WAD) describes the signs and symptoms of an anatomical injury.

Aside from injuries in the neck, shoulders, and back, WAD can include trauma to the brain caused the organ impacting the front and back of the inside of the skull (referred to as a coup-contra-coup injury) during the hyperextension followed by hyperflexion phases of the CAD injury. The result is a traumatic brain injury (TBI), which is commonly referred to as a concussion. Symptoms associated with TBI include forgetfulness, short-term memory loss, and “mental fog”.

One explanation for the resulting signs and symptoms associated with WAD injuries is the fact that it takes longer to voluntarily contract a muscle (about 1,000 milliseconds) vs. the time from start to finish of the whiplash process (about 300-500 ms). At about 100 ms after impact, the vehicle is accelerated forward and the seatback pushes into the spine or torso, propelling it away from the direction of the collision while the head stays stationary (due to inertia).

At 150-300 ms, the torso can “ramp up” due to the reclined angle of the seatback. Depending on the headrest position and type, the head can hyperextend over the headrest. The amount of rebound is partially affected by the “springiness” of the seatback and the amount of vehicular damage (or lack thereof), since crushing metal absorbs energy. Thus, injury can occur even when the vehicle receives little to no car due to the energy of the impact being transferred to the contents of the vehicle—including its occupants.

The whole whiplash process is over well before one can contract muscles in preparation to a crash, so it’s virtually impossible to avoid injury.

Research shows that WAD patients can experience better outcomes if they seek prompt treatment focused on restoring motion to the affected areas. Time and time again, chiropractic care has been demonstrated to not only help WAD patients get out of pain and return to their normal activities but it also achieves high scores regarding patient satisfaction.

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.
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Whiplash Management Options – Where Does Chiropractic Fit In?

25 Oct

Recent studies suggest that in a rear-end collision, the injuries collectively described as whiplash associated disorders (WAD) result from the simultaneous hyperextension of the lower cervical spine and hyperflexion of the upper cervical spine. This can lead to a variety of injuries to the bony and/or soft tissues of the neck, some of which may not manifest for hours, days, or even weeks following a car accident.

Traditionally, doctors have advised patients with an acute whiplash injury to limit movement, which may have included the use of a cervical collar. However, more recent studies have found that restricting motion in the neck can actually hinder recovery from WAD. Rather, new data suggests that early mobilization actually improves outcomes for WAD patients, reducing their risk for long-term disability.

The primary form of treatment utilized by doctors of chiropractic is spinal manipulation (SM), which is described as a high velocity, low amplitude (HVLA) thrust applied to specific joints in the neck, mid-back, low-back, pelvic regions as well as to extremity joints. Manipulation improves the mobility of the spinal facet joints, which allows for an increase in the global range of motion of the neck.

SM also breaks the vicious pain cycle where the inflow of sensory information to the brain is attenuated, thus reducing the reflex muscle spasm and accompanying pain. Additionally, there is substantial evidence that SM increases pain tolerance or thresholds by modulating central (brain) sensory processing (called central sensitization). There are also measurable neuro-endocrine benefits following SM as well as many other measurable “somato-visceral” reflex responses.

Chiropractic management of WAD injuries includes not only SM (both HVLA and non-thrust types), but also soft-tissue therapies, exercise training, the use of physiotherapy modalities (electric stim, ultrasound, laser or light therapy, and more), nutritional counseling, ergonomic/work modifications, and more. Doctors of chiropractic frequently co-manage WAD patients with other healthcare providers when it is appropriate.

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Concussion and Whiplash – Is There a Connection?

24 Sep

Whiplash or whiplash associated disorders (WAD) represent a constellation of symptoms that are very similar to those reported by patients who have sustained a concussion or minor-traumatic brain injury (mTBI). These shared symptoms include (but are not limited to): headache; neck pain; nausea/vomiting; dizziness; balance issues; vision problems; and difficulty concentrating. Chiropractic care focused on the cervical spine has been demonstrated to benefit patients with WAD. Is it possible that the same form of treatment can help the mTBI patient as well?

In the March 2015 issue of the journal The Physician and Sportsmedicine, researchers looked at case studies involving five patients with concussion symptoms that did not resolve within 30 days and had become chronic. The mechanism of injury in three of the cases was sport-related, while the other two stemmed from a slip and fall and a motor vehicle collision. Treatment focused on the cervical spine and included the use of either spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) or mobilization; active release technique (ART) to stretch tight neck muscles; and exercises aimed at strengthening the deep neck flexor muscles and/or other surrounding neck musculature.

  • Case 1: A 25-year-old professional mixed martial arts male injured from sparring presented four months after the injury. After three treatments, he reported a significant reduction in symptoms, with full resolution after eight treatments.
  • Case 2: A 59-year-old female who hit the back of her head on the ground after a fall presented with 31-month duration of symptoms that reportedly improved significantly within three months of twice-per-week treatments.
  • Case 3: A 19-year-old male junior hockey player presented two years after the initial injury and reportedly experienced an 80% improvement in his symptom after four treatments spread out over a three-week timeframe.
  • Case 4: A 19-year-old male injured in a car accident presented 14 weeks after the injury and reported a nearly 50% reduction in symptoms after one treatment and full resolution after eight treatments.
  • Case 5: A 51-year-old female hockey player who was struck on the left side of the head presented five weeks post-injury and reported a full resolution of symptoms after three treatments per week for six weeks.

The important point here is that treatment was aimed ONLY at the cervical spine, not the concussion, with excellent results in each case. These findings indicate the need for larger studies concerning the use of conservative chiropractic care for cases of mTBI that do not resolve within a month’s time.

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

What Leads to Chronic Whiplash?

20 Aug

Whiplash associated disorder (WAD) is a very common injury that can occur in a variety of ways, but it’s most commonly associated with motor vehicle collisions. The symptoms associated with WAD have been classified as follows:

  • WAD I: Pain, stiffness, or tenderness of the neck as the only complaint with no physical exam findings (full range of motion and no muscle guarding or tenderness on examination).
  • WAD II: Pain, stiffness, or tenderness of the neck with soft tissue injury signs loss of range of motion (ROM) and/or point tenderness of the neck (e.g., a sprain/strain neck injury).
  • WAD III: Pain, stiffness, or tenderness of the neck along with neurological signs sensory deficits, motor weakness, and/or decreased or absent deep tendon reflexes.
  • WAD IV: Pain, stiffness, or tenderness of the neck along with dislocation or fracture with or without spinal cord injury.
  • Other symptoms including deafness, dizziness, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), headache, memory loss, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), and jaw pain can be present in all grades (WAD I-IV).

About 50% of WAD patients continue to report neck pain one year after the injury occurred. These long-term symptoms and signs can vary from mild to completely disabling.

There are prognostic factors that may help predict who is at risk of developing long-term, chronic (lasting longer than three months) WAD, which include the following (partial list): women more than men, age over 50 years, lower educational attainment, those who had pre-injury neck pain and/or headaches, the higher the WAD grade (comparing WAD I-III), those reporting more frequent or severe post-injury symptoms with greater pain intensity, poor coping at six weeks post-injury, depression, feeling helpless regarding pain control, fear of movement or activity, catastrophizing, anxiety, and high frequency pre-injury healthcare utilization.

There is evidence that WAD-injured individuals can develop widespread body pain or fibromyalgia in the year following their injury. This occurs more frequently in women and in those with poor prior health, greater initial symptoms (including pain intensity), and more symptoms of depression.

Among available treatment options, manual therapies such as mobilization and manipulation—the primary form of treatment delivered by doctors of chiropractic—often receive the highest ratings from patients in regards to overall satisfaction with care.

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

How Does Chiropractic Help Whiplash Patients?

23 Jul

Whiplash associated disorder (WAD) injuries usually result from rear-end, low-impact crashes with about 90% occurring at speeds less than 14 mph. Approximately 40% of all WAD patients develop long-term, chronic problems. Let’s look at how chiropractic care can help crash-injured patients recover and return to their normal lives…

REDUCE INFLAMMATION: Inflammation occurs when ligaments and muscles are injured. However, the pain associated with inflammation may be delayed and not show up right away. Rather, you may wake up the next morning with acute neck and/or back pain, as WAD injuries are NOT limited to only the neck. Several studies have shown that chiropractic spinal manipulation results in the release of anti-inflammatory Interleukin 6 (IL-6), which helps reduce inflammation.

RESTORE MOVEMENT: Injured joints quickly become stiff from pain and swelling. Muscles often “splint” in response to pain as a way to protect a deeper ligament or joint-related injury. Both factors can lead a patient to unnecessarily restrict their movement, weakening that area of the body, and increasing the risk of further injury down the road.         

REDUCE SCAR TISSUE: As injured tissue heals, the body’s “Band-Aid” is actually scar tissue that is made up of similar cells as the surrounding tissue but is laid down quickly and in an unorganized way. Scar tissue reduces the ability for the injured tissue to stretch and can lead to tissue shortening. If it is performed early enough, Chiropractic adjustments help to stretch out and—in a sense—break up the scar tissue.

RELIEVE LOCALIZED PAIN: Many studies report spinal manipulation (SM) to be a safe, fast, and effective way to reduce pain. As a result, SM is now strongly recommended in treatment guidelines published throughout the world.          

REDUCE WIDESPREAD PAIN: Some WAD-injured patients develop pain not just in the neck or back but more widespread throughout their body. This is thought to be caused by “sensitization” of parts of our nervous system. Spinal adjustments have been shown to stimulate the nervous system in such a way as to reduce this hypersensitized effect.       

REDUCE STRESS & CHRONIC PAIN: Due to initial high pain intensity, stress and anxiety levels often soar following a WAD injury. Chiropractic care includes patient education, exercise, nutrition, and more to help patients cope with ongoing problems. The importance of EARLY INTERVENTION cannot be overemphasized in quest of preventing chronic, long-term pain and disability.

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Whiplash Injury – A “Must Read” About Important FACTS!

21 Jun

Whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) is defined as “an acceleration-deceleration mechanism of energy transfer to the neck.” WAD may result from rear-end or side-impact motor vehicle collisions (MVCs), diving and other sports-related injuries, as well as from falls, assaults, and more. Because many bones and soft tissues may be involved in WAD, there are a variety of clinical signs and symptoms associated with the disorder.

In 1995, the Quebec task force coined the term WAD and broke it down into five divisions: WAD 0 includes no pain or exam findings; WAD I includes neck pain, stiffness, or tenderness as the only complaint with no exam signs; WAD II includes pain, stiffness, or tenderness with exam findings such as decreased range of neck motion and/or point tenderness of the neck; WAD III includes all of WAD II plus altered nerve function (sensory deficits and/or muscle weakness or altered deep tendon reflexes); and WAD IV includes fracture or dislocation with or without spinal cord injury.

WAD is usually seen in rear-end, low-impact collisions with about 90% of cases occurring at speeds of <14 mph. In a rear-end collision, the trunk of the body is initially forced back into the seatback followed by hyperextension of the neck and head, which then recoil forwards—all within about 600 msec, which is much faster than the 1,000 msec needed to voluntarily brace our muscles.

Studies support that the source of neck pain arises more often from injured joints than injured muscles. In about 60% of cases, neck pain is due to injury of the small facet joints, which are located on the sides of the neck, especially at levels C2-3 and C5-6. This can give rise to upper neck pain and/or headache (from C2-3), and/or lower neck pain radiating to the shoulder blades (C5-6) or worse, into the arms.

Fortunately, most acute WAD injured patients recover within three months. Unfortunately, about 40% do not improve and are then classified as having “chronic whiplash” (cWAD). Risk factors for WAD developing into cWAD include the following: 1) rapid and severe onset of neck pain and stiffness symptoms; 2) neurological deficit with arm pain (WAD III); 3) headaches; and 4) when urgent hospital admission is necessary. Older patients, those with pre-existing neck or low back pain, and individuals with slender necks have an elevated risk for a poor recovery. Depression, anxiety, and mood disorders are common in those with cWAD as well.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.