Whiplash injuries of the neck and spine can occur from a variety of traumas, but probably the most common cause is auto accidents. Many people believe that if there was minor damage to the car or they feel no pain immediately following the accident, they didn't suffer any damage. Some people do feel pain immediately following an accident, but most people don't feel the full effects of the impact until days or even weeks later.
A study in the science journal SPINE (Dec 15, 1994) observed fifty patients with MRI and bending x-rays, one year and then five years post injury. The researchers found that 48% of the subjects continued to have neck pain and 38% of those developed radiating pain within 6 weeks. Radiating pain can develop when a disc protrudes and pinches a nerve exiting the spinal column. MRI studies are helpful in determining whether there is disc injury affecting your nerves.
All types of accidents, auto or work related should always be reported immediately , regardless of lack of symptoms, since they can have a delayed onset. As with any injury, you should only use ice the first 3 days after the injury and avoid heat, which will exacerbate symptoms. It is not advisable to remain in bed completely immobile, this could impair recovery You should keep your neck moving. Pain is a good thing because it lets us know that something is wrong and we need to take care of it. So if you do have pain following an accident, make sure you get a spinal check up. This normally includes x-rays and palpation to determine if your vertebrae are aligned properly and moving properly. This is extremely important because improper motion in the spine will lead to arthritic and degenerative changes over time. If you already have arthritis in your spine at the time of the accident, this could slow or prevent recovery altogether.
Chiropractic care, progressive rehab therapy, and manual therapy can all help in correcting any damage done to the spine and probably most important, help prevent permanent conditions, such as, arthritis and disc degeneration from forming in the spine. Because symptoms and disc disease can show up later, it is important to have a detailed neurological exam following a neck injury. If it is treated soon enough, most people do well under conservative care and avoid surgery in the future. This is very important since surgery has substantial risks involved.
Dr. Sandra Hernandez D.C. is located in Royal Palm Beach and she is a participating provider for many Health Insurances. Ask about our law enforcement officer discount.