What Type of Doctor is Best to Treat Whiplash?
Someone recently asked in a Youtube’s comment section, “What type of physician are best for treating whiplash injuries?” Nobody had answered her yet, but the answer was obvious to me. The answer is any doctor who has been trained and provides solutions for whiplash care. Chiropractors are the best choice because we have a special interest in treating these injuries.
That’s us. We take a special interest in treating “cervical acceleration-deceleration injuries.” Whiplash injury describes a sudden whipping of your spine from a sudden hit from one side. It actually was known as “railroad spine” about 100 years ago, because people would start to develop neck pain, headaches, upper back pain, and eventually numbness and tingling in their hands when the railroad car they are sitting in was coupled and decoupled to the car behind them. One train car would bump the car ahead, and the passengers would get a whiplash injury, unaware of the sudden impact until it happened.
Whiplash is more than the neck.
Whiplash is mostly a neck injury, but it can involve the rest of the spine, your head and brain (concussion), and even your shoulders and knees as they impact certain parts of the inside of your car. It’s really common to slam your knee against the dashboard underneath your steering wheel when you hit someone else, or you get hit from the side.
A whiplash injury bruise the soft tissue in your lower neck, and it sprains the ligaments of your neck, or even avulse the discs which are usually strongly attached to the bones in your neck. This video explains the injuries in your lower neck:
Do Whiplash Injuries Cause Headaches?
And what about the injuries that might happen in your upper neck? “Cervicogenic” headaches are headaches that come from your upper neck. The greater occipital nerve lays very close to the same muscles that can become bruised from a hyperextension injury.
Not only that, but there are powerful reflexes that coordinate signals from your neck to your “Trigeminal Nucleus” in your brainstem. The trigeminal nucleus can mix pain signals from your neck with pain signals form your head. Neck pain feels like it’s in your head, causing headaches.
This video explains upper neck injuries:
What will a doctor do after whiplash injury?
If you go to a medical physician for a whiplash injury, they will probably give you muscle relaxers and pain killers to dampen the pain you feel. This is an effective short term treatment for a long-term problem, but its effectiveness goes away once you need to start living your life without being in a fog. Personally, I would allow this for myself for 2-3 days tops with a severe injury.
A physical therapist will give you range of motion exercises and strengthening exercises. Unfortunately, physical therapists don’t often have specialized training in whiplash injuries, and they may not be equipped to look after your injury like a chiropractor does. Chiropractors have a higher level of licensing than physical therapists. So a chiropractor can do the same treatments that a physical therapist does, but chiropractors are licensed to do more. For example, chiropractors in California can be licensed as Radiological Supervisors with the California Department of Public Health, Radiologic Branch. Chiropractors are trained to order the appropriate x-ray or MRI study, and trained to read the x-rays. Chiropractic specialists in radiology are also experts in reading x-rays of trauma patients.
Should I go to the hospital for a whiplash injury?
You should always go to the hospital for life threatening injuries. If you’re bleeding, and if you have broken bones, then you should go to the hospital. There are first-aid emergency situations that call for the emergency room. But, after your injuries are stabilized, hospitals and most medical doctors are not very good at treating whiplash injuries. For this, you need someone like a chiropractor who takes a special interest in treating injuries from car accidents. Pain killers and muscle relaxers do not fix a whiplash injury.
Can Whiplash be Medically Proven?
Whiplash don’t show up very well on static x-ray images or on MRI. If a whiplash injury causes tears in the ligaments of your spine, then flexion-extension x-rays of your neck can show instability. This movement study of your neck will give us a functional view of what is causing your pain.
Another study that may be helpful is to do a combination dynamic electromyography with range of motion. This kind of study can prove muscle bracing during range of motion. Muscle that brace your neck involuntarily are a sign of injury.
Injuries can be tracked by outcomes questionnaires. Questionnaires track how much an injury affected your quality of life. Quality of life is a med-legal issue.
What happens if Whiplash goes untreated?
If you let your injury go without treatment, bad things happen. Swelling builds up after an injury. You need to allow the swelling to do it’s job, but you also need to keep the fluids circulating. Movement helps this. And after the swelling goes down, and you’re in the next phase of healing, controlled movement helps to remodel and realign the microscopic collagen fibers in your ligaments, tendons, and other soft tissues. If you just let it rest, you’ll develop scar tissue instead.
Untrained scar tissue in your neck will eventually lead to stiffness, degeneration, and recurring pain. I see this in many of my patients who come to my clinic with neck pain that is chronic and recurring. We can trace the pain back to an old whiplash from 10 years ago where they didn’t do much treatment to it. Healing is always complete, but it’s never done perfectly, and there are always clues left behind. Your job is to do the best you can to mobilize and exercise injured body parts.
Do I have to pay out of pocket for my whiplash injury treatment?
In many cases, you do not have to pay out of pocket. If you are working with an attorney, our office will work with your attorney through medical liens, where we delay our reimbursement while you receive the care you need.
Car insurances will pay the bill. You’ve been paying them premiums, and when there’s an injury, it’s time for them to cover their end of the agreement. Sometimes your own insurance company will cover your costs through your medical payments policy, and sometimes you will recover from your injury through the person at fault. If there are any bumps in the road where you feel like the insurance adjusters are taking advantage of you, then we have attorneys we work with who work in your best interests.
Book a Consultation with a Petaluma Chiropractor to help manage your Whiplash injury.
If you’ve had an injury from a car accident, you may be entitled to treatment covered by your insurance company or through a personal injury attorney with no out of pocket costs to you. Book a free consultation with us online at: https://adjustclinic.janeapp.com/