Have you ever suffered from whiplash?
You are not alone. Of the six million injuries per year due to motor vehicle crashes about three million people suffer from whiplash-type injuries. Of those 500,000-900,000 will develop chronic pain.
"We have always known that chiropractors are effective with whiplash, but there were were lots of theories as to why," explains Dr. Dan Murphy, a chiropractor who teaches on the subjects of whiplash throughout the world. "Now, it appears that by the very nature of what we do, chiropractors are the most effectively treating the tissues injures during an accident,"says Dr. Murphy.
According to two new studies- one in the journal Injury and another in the Journal of Orthopedic Medicine- people who failed under medical management were referred to chiropractors for treatment of chronic whiplash pain. "In both studies, the results were phenomenal, and one of the conclusion is that chiropractic is the only proven effective treatment for chronic whiplash," says Dr. Murphy.
Research soon to be published in the Journal of Musculoskeletal Pain shows that there are risk factors for acute whiplash injury and that chronic pain can occur even after the most minor of accidents. "We are finding that risk factors for acute injury, such as having the head rotated, being out of position in the vehicle, lack of preparation for the crash and being struck from the rear, are present not only for initial injury, but also for chronic injury," says Dr. Michael Freeman, a chiropractor and PhD clinical assistant professor of epidemiology at Oregon Health Sciences University School of Medicine.
"If you are injured whether the vehicle sustains no major damage or is totaled, there is a one in three chance you will have chronic pain," says Dr. Freeman.
According to Dr. Arthur Croft, a chiropractor and whiplash researcher, technological improvements are being perfected in an effort to prevent whiplash. Dr Croft explains that seat and head restraint improvements have already been made in models of automobiles designed by Saab and Volvo.
Sophisticated forward and rear looking systems are also being developed to gauge the distance between cars. A computer chip on board will contain a pre programmed set of instructions to allow calculation of impending crash conditions.
So, how many crashes can actually be avoided? Perhaps only 10 percent, according to Dr. Croft. "But what we've found in our whiplash studies is that people that have the worst outcomes are the ones who were caught absolutely unaware," says Dr. Croft. "So we believe even a few dozen milliseconds of warning that allow people to brace to some extent are worthwhile."
The ACA and Dr. Croft suggest ways to minimize pain and suffering before and after a whiplash accident.
1. Shop for a Safer Car
Before you buy your next car, compare vehicle structural design, vehicle size and weight, and restraint systems – belts, air bags, head restraints, and crash avoidance. features. Small cars put you and your passengers at greater risk, so consider mass and crash worthiness. Also, check Insurance
Institute Highway Safety ratings.
2. Keep head rests in the UP position.
Eighty percent of cars have the head restraint adjusted in the LOW position, yet research reveals that having no head restraint is safer than having one in the LOW position. Many people are unaware that these can be adjusted and they should be done so to minimize damage to the neck in a car accident. Some add-on head restraints are available, but check first for safety and ease of installation.
3. No crush, no crash?
Within a certain range of crash speeds, when there is NO DAMAGE to the vehicle, whiplash injuries are more prevalent than when the vehicle is damaged. The reason is that the energy that's used up in crushing parts of the car is not transmitted to the occupant. Even if there is little visible damage to your vehicle after a car accident, it is best to be seen as soon as possible by a chiropractor to properly evaluate the spine. Anyone can be subjected to whiplash, even in a low-force car crash at speeds as low as 5 m.p.h.
4. Prepare for a crash. Crashes happen at lightning-fast speeds, and time is crucial. If you have time to prepare, follow these tips:
- Put your head and neck all the way back so that you're in contact with the seat back and the properly adjusted head read restraints.
- Straight-arm the steering wheel and get a good grip.
- Put your foot on the brake as hard as you can "assuming you are stopped) of course.
- Look straight ahead, not in the rear view mirror. Don't have your head turned at all. Having your head or body turned in a car accident results in a greater chance of ligamentous injury.
- Put your neck back slightly so your eyes are looking level, up at about the top of the windshield.
- Scrunch your shoulders up toward your ears and then brace for impact.
5. Seek treatment immediately.
It is a huge advantage to a victim's recovery to begin treating the whiplash injury within two weeks after the accident by a doctor who specializes in whiplash injuries. Immediate treatment will decrease the likelihood of a painful, chronic condition. Whiplash symptoms may or may not appear right away. After a night's rest or even longer (symptoms can take weeks to months to appear), you will usually experience stiffness or soreness of the neck and/or back. Often victims are stunned immediately after an accident and do not note any of the whiplash effects. But delaying treatment and thinking the pain "will just go away" may make it more difficult later to alleviate the symptoms.
6. Do what your doctor orders.
Physical therapy, massage, chiropractic, nutrition, exercise, better pillows, adjusted work stations, etc. – do exactly what your doctor prescribes. Your doctor has great experience in knowing what needs to be done to heal, and following his instructions will minimize permanent problems.
7. Think ergonomically.
Positions to avoid, how to sleep, conditions at work – these are everyday factors that can hasten healing. Your doctor is trained to help discover possible obstacles to heal properly and help you get better relief while sleeping, working, etc.