10 Side Effects of Whiplash Injury
Vehicular accidents can lead to injuries like whiplash, which may not be immediately apparent but can cause long-term difficulties in performing daily tasks. Untreated whiplash can result in chronic pain, disability, and inflammation in the neck and shoulders, among other issues. This blog will explore whiplash and its side effects, as well as how chiropractic care can help in overcoming the injury.
What is a whiplash injury?
Whiplash, typically caused by sudden acceleration-deceleration forces in events like car accidents, results from the head and neck being rapidly whipped back and forth. This motion can stretch neck muscles and ligaments beyond their normal range, causing pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility.
Symptoms can range from mild to chronic, with some individuals experiencing persistent pain, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and difficulties in sleep, memory, and concentration. Although car accidents, particularly rear-end collisions, are the most common cause of whiplash, other sources include physical assault, sports injuries, amusement park rides, falls, and work-related accidents.
While some may recover fully within weeks, others can face long-lasting pain and symptoms, significantly impacting their quality of life.
What is the classification system for whiplash-associated disorders (WAD)?
The Quebec Task Force (QTF) is a group that developed a classification system for patients with whiplash-associated disorders (WAD). The QTF classification system is used to help healthcare professionals diagnose and manage WAD by categorising patients based on the severity of their symptoms.
The QTF classification system divides patients with WAD into five grades based on the severity of their symptoms:
Grade 0: No complaint about the neck and no physical sign of injury
Grade 1: Neck complaints of pain, stiffness, or tenderness only but no physical signs of injury
Grade 2: Neck complaints and musculoskeletal signs of injury, such as a decreased range of motion or point tenderness
Grade 3: Neck complaints and neurological signs of injury, such as decreased or absent deep tendon reflexes, weakness or sensory deficits
Grade 4: Neck complaints and fracture or dislocation of the spine.
What are the side effects of whiplash?
The side effects of whiplash can vary depending on the severity of the injury. Still, some common symptoms include:
1. Neck pain, numbness, and stiffness
Neck pain is a common symptom of whiplash because of the rapid and forceful movement of the head and neck. Further, a whiplash injury can strain or damage the neck’s muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The neck is also vulnerable to injury because it has an extensive range of motion and is supported by a delicate network of bones, muscles, and other tissues.
At the same time, the muscles and other soft tissues in the neck are suddenly and forcibly stretched beyond the normal range of motion during a whiplash injury. This can cause tiny muscle and tissue tears, leading to pain, swelling, and inflammation. Additionally, the rapid movement of the head can damage the delicate nerves in the neck, leading to additional symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and weakness.
2. Shoulder and back pain
Shoulder and back pain can occur in some people with whiplash injuries because the rapid and forceful head and neck movement during a whiplash injury can cause muscle strain or spasms in the shoulders and upper back. A network of muscles, tendons, and ligaments also connects the neck to the upper back and shoulders. Hence, an injury in one area can often lead to symptoms in adjacent areas.
Consequently, a whiplash injury may also affect the upper back and shoulder bones. For instance, the sudden force of the impact can cause the vertebrae in the upper back to move out of place, leading to spinal misalignment and back pain. Therefore, if you are experiencing shoulder and back pain after a whiplash injury, it is crucial to seek chiropractic care to determine the root cause.
Headaches are a common symptom of a whiplash injury because they can cause strain or damage to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the neck and head. Furthermore, the rapid movement of the head can also damage the delicate nerves in the neck and head, leading to headaches and other symptoms. In addition, the muscles and soft tissues in the neck and head can be forcibly stretched beyond their normal range of motion, causing tiny muscle tears. As a result, it can cause pain and inflammation radiating to the head.
4. Pain and numbness in arms
Pain or numbness in the arms can be a symptom of whiplash because the nerves in the neck control sensations and arm movement can be damaged. Moreover, the injury can cause muscle strain or spasms in the neck and upper back, leading to referred pain in the arms. Plus, the nerves in the neck can be compressed, causing swelling around the nerves. In the long run, these pinched nerves can cause numbness in the arms, alongside weakness and difficulty moving the arms.
5. Dizziness and vision problems
A whiplash injury can cause an imbalance in the brain’s visual centres, leading to dizziness and balance issues. In addition, rapid head movement during a whiplash injury can irritate the nerves in the neck that help control eye movements and vision. As a result, you may experience blurred vision.
Sometimes, dizziness and vision problems can also be related to neck pain, muscle strain, or spasm after a whiplash injury. The pain and discomfort in the neck can make it difficult to hold the head in a stable position, causing vision problems and dizziness.
6. Sleep problems
The pain, discomfort, and other symptoms associated with the injury can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Further, the psychological effects of the injury, such as anxiety or depression, can also contribute to sleep problems. Also, the various side effects of a whiplash injury, like headaches, nerve problems, and pain, can make it challenging to find a comfortable sleeping position.
Whiplash can cause various symptoms, including neck pain, headaches, dizziness, and tingling and numbness in the arms or hands, all of which can make it challenging to find a comfortable position for sleep. Additionally, the pain and discomfort from a whiplash injury can disrupt standard sleep patterns, leading to sleep disturbances.
The injury can cause physical and psychological distress. Many symptoms, like pain, headache, and numbness, contribute to frustration and irritability. In addition to physical symptoms, the psychological effects of a whiplash injury can also contribute to irritability. Anxiety, depression, and stress are common after a whiplash injury, and these emotions can interfere with daily life and lead to feelings of irritability. Moreover, the recovery process after the injury can take a long time, adding to frustration and irritability as the person struggles to regain normal function and return to daily activities.
8. Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
A whiplash injury can cause damage to the delicate structures in the inner ear. Whiplash can cause rapid and forceful movement of the head and neck, leading to trauma to the inner ear, including damage to the delicate hair cells in the cochlea. As a result, you may experience tinnitus or ringing in the ears.
Tinnitus can sometimes be related to neck pain and muscle strain after a whiplash injury. The neck’s pain and discomfort can affect the inner ear’s normal function and lead to tinnitus. Additionally, muscle strain or spasms in the neck can cause headaches and neck pain, further contributing to tinnitus.
9. Focus and memory problems
Whiplash can cause rapid and forceful head and neck movement, resulting in brain trauma, including concussions and other brain injuries. These may contribute to problems in concentration and memory.
In addition to brain injuries, focus and memory problems can also be related to the psychological effects of a whiplash injury, such as anxiety, depression, and stress. These emotions can interfere with cognitive function, making concentrating or recalling information difficult.
10. Fatigue and mood swings
The injury can cause physical and psychological distress. You may experience fatigue and mood swings. Anxiety, depression, and stress are common after a whiplash injury, and these emotions can interfere with daily life and lead to feelings of fatigue. In addition, the long recovery process can cause frustration, leading to mood swings as the individual struggles to regain normal function.
How chiropractic care treats a whiplash injury
Chiropractic care is an allied health care profession concerned with the conservative management of disorders of the neuromusculoskeletal system (joints, muscles and nerves). This includes conditions such as whiplash and neck pain.
A chiropractor will thoroughly evaluate your symptoms and conduct a physical examination to determine the root cause of your pain. Once the underlying cause of your pain is determined, a chiropractor will develop a customised treatment plan to address your specific needs. This may include manual adjustments, therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises, stretching and strengthening exercises, nutritional, diet and lifestyle advice, ergonomic and postural assessment and other techniques designed to improve range of motion, reduce pain, and improve overall function. This multidisciplinary approach is highly effective in resolving pain and restoring and maintaining long-term health.
Additionally, chiropractic care offers a targeted approach to alleviating whiplash-associated symptoms, namely headaches, dizziness, and sleep disturbances by addressing their underlying causes. With its emphasis on restoring spinal alignment and improving joint mobility, chiropractic can be particularly effective for whiplash victims as it facilitates a faster recovery while reducing the risk of chronic pain and long-term complications.
If you prefer a hands-on approach to your healthcare that promotes natural healing without medications or surgery, Chiropractic care offers a non-invasive and non-surgical solution.
The bottom line
A study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that 93% of whiplash patients treated with chiropractic care experienced significant improvement in their symptoms. Another study showed that patients with neck pain who received chiropractic treatment were twice as likely to achieve full recovery compared to those who received standard medical care.
Chiropractic care offers a conservative approach to treating and managing whiplash injuries without resorting to surgery or relying on pain-relief medications. This non-invasive method focuses on restoring the proper alignment and function of the spine and joints, addressing muscle imbalances, and promoting natural healing.
By using techniques such as spinal manipulation, muscle relaxation, and therapeutic exercises, chiropractors aim to alleviate pain, improve mobility, and enhance the body’s innate healing abilities, reducing the need for more invasive treatments and long-term medication use.
Kissun Chiropractic is a trusted and leading Chiropractic clinic in Singapore, offering affordable and effective treatments for all ages in the community. Their chiropractors are certified and registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Further, they have established many years of experience treating patients with back pain effectively in Singapore. They are also experienced in treating common and complex neuromusculoskeletal conditions such as headaches, neck pain, shoulder aches, osteoarthritis, scoliosis, sciatica, pregnancy aches and pains, sports injuries, performing ergonomic assessments, and postural checks.
Patients’ conditions are managed through natural, safe, non-invasive, drug and surgery-free treatments, relying on the bodies’ inherent recuperative functions. Treatment plans are customised to patients’ specific needs and preferences.
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- Jimenez, Alexander (2017). Effectiveness Of Chiropractic For Whiplash. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/studies-demonstrate-effectiveness-chiropractic-dr-alexander-jimenez-/