Many of us have been in a car accident or experienced a form of whiplash in our lives. I remember learning how to ride a wakeboard and catching an edge and hitting the water so hard it felt like cement. I felt every vertebra in my neck pop and felt immediate tension throughout the neck as my body began to stabilize the damaged region with muscle spasms and swelling. I had a few really sore days, and then some stiffness of the neck that lasted several months, and eventually it seemed to heal, although my neck continued to feel somewhat stiff for several years.
This was prior to being a chiropractor. What I didn’t realize was that the bones in my neck had shifted and the soft tissue (muscle, tendon, ligaments and fascia) had actually torn and been damaged. This created an abnormal alignment of the bones in the neck and abnormal stresses on the structures of the cervical spine. Thankfully the career I would choose put me in the presence of some great doctors who detected this problem and helped me correct it before a permanent damage and arthritis could set in.
The Speed of Life in Todays World
In today’s modern world, we are traveling faster than ever before. We ride in cars, trains, and planes, ride bikes, ski and snowboard, and generally move over the earth at a speed that would have seemed impossible to our ancestors. Traveling fast isn’t the problem, but when something goes wrong, as can happen, the rapid change in speed puts forces into our body that we just aren’t built for. Often time if we are young or its our first of such injuries, we assume we will heal completely.
What we don’t realize is that if the bones of the spine become misaligned do to whiplash or some other type of injury, as they often do, they will not usually go back on their own, and may require years of active and passive treatment to fully return to normal. If we fail to get them back to normal, we know the unnatural stresses they are now forced to carry will eventually lead to early arthritis, degenerative disc disease (DDD), degenerative joint disease, and all the challenges and secondary illness associated with these conditions like nerve pain and dysfunction.
A Whiplash Injury May Have A Delayed Breaking Point
I see it all the time that a patient comes in with a neck or back condition and think it was caused from sleeping on it or from bending over. While that may have been the most recent event, when we dig through their history we oftentimes find a whiplash injury and when we perform the exam, we see that the breakdown of the joints is consistent with a chronic (long term) problem rather than a more acute (it just happened) problem. This can be a shock to patients who felt perfectly healthy yesterday and today are in severe pain. When in fact, it was a chronic condition they didn’t even know was going on and had begun with their whiplash, that they thought had healed a few weeks back.
The Benefits of Structural Chiropractic and X-Rays
This is one of the main benefits to seeing a structural chiropractor, and to the use of X-Rays in understanding our spinal health and postural risks. Often times we can detect unresolved whiplash and work at correcting the issue before we have to suffer the long term consequences of things like a decreased or reversed cervical curve. It can also help you understand why sometimes the chiropractor wants to see you even when you don’t hurt, and why it is so important to do your home care and exercises given to you by your chiropractor and or physical therapist. If you have had a whiplash injury, car accidents, or other types of injuries where you felt the spine shift, it can pay dividends to be evaluated by a chiropractor and correct the issue before it becomes more serious.