Whiplash usually occurs as a result of a car crash when the head moves in a fast, uncontrolled way in many possible directions. The forwards-backwards movement is described in a classic “whiplash” injury but side-to-side, rotational, or a combination of movements often occur, especially if we add in the factor of the head being turned or rotated when the impact occurs, regardless of how the car is hit. This month, let’s talk treatment!
Think of “Whiplash Management” in steps:
STEP 1: IMMEDIATELY seek chiropractic attention following a whiplash injury: This is important as studies show delayed treatment is associated with worse outcomes after the dust settles. To avoid long-term disability, DON’T WAIT! Pain usually scares people into a guarded, protective way of thinking. The longer you wait, the greater the muscle tightness, spasm, weakening, and your increased fear of activity because of the pain!
STEP 2: Reduce Inflammation: The words “pain” and “inflammation” are quite synonymous. If you feel “hurt,” you are “inflamed.” You must begin anti-swelling/inflammation measures ASAP after an injury like whiplash. The BEST/safest approach is an ICE PACK – rotate it on/off/on/off/on every 15 minutes (1.25 hours/session) three times a day OR CONTRAST ice with heat (10 min. ice/5 min. heat x3, ending with ice = 40 min.). BOTH methods produce a PUMP-like effect to quickly get rid of the inflammation. You also have the option of OTC medications (aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen) but these NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) carry significant side-effects for some people, the most evident early on being stomach upset/irritation (later, liver and kidney damage) so be careful! You don’t want to have to treat an ulcer on top of your whiplash! Consider anti-inflammatory nutrients, herbs, vitamins, and food—they’re safe and effective (we’ve discussed these previously, SEARCH this site for more information).
STEP 3: AVOID INACTIVITY: This is important since the “natural” thing to do is nothing, “…because it hurts!” Your doctor of chiropractic will guide you in this process as you need to know how much and what type of activity is safe and appropriate. You have to “interpret” the pain as being either safe or harmful and then you react accordingly. You MUST tell us the type of pain (sharp, knife-like is harmful vs. a “good” stretch type of hurt is safe), how much pain there is (7-10 on a 0-10 scale is potentially harmful), how constant it is, and what helps/hurt (what have you tried and learned so far). THEN, your chiropractor will guide you appropriately (with your help)!
STEP 4: DO NORMAL ACTIVITY: This dovetails our last point. Get on with your normal activities as avoiding work and other ADLs (activities of daily living) leads to “disability thinking” or thinking you’re worse than you are. DON’T LET THAT HAPPEN.
STEP 5: AVOID prolonged faulty postures: Whether it’s a conversation with a person who is NOT directly in front of you, a faulty computer screen position, talking in a car without turning your body (look straight ahead), or talking on the phone, CHANGE IT!
STEP 6: COMPLY with a home-based exercise program: This is HUGE! Your doctor of chiropractic will guide you in this process. He or she may start you with ice and then possibly a home traction device, isometrics followed by Theratube or band (isotonic) exercises, posture training, and much more. You NEED guidance in this area – let your doctor HELP YOU!