Several weeks ago I introduced the topic of whiplash type injuries as one of the more common type of chief complaints that I see new patients for in my practice. With this column, I will look at some the physiological changes that occur with whiplash and also the benefits of completing early treatment following a motor vehicle accident (MVA).
Following an MVA, people commonly report an onset of neck pain and reduced range of motion (stiffness). These symptoms can appear immediately after the crash but more commonly will appear 1-10 days following the accident when dealing with soft tissue type injuries. These symptoms are a good indicator that a MVA victim should be getting actively treated with something more than muscle relaxants and pain medication. The subjective symptoms are just the beginning of the problem. With a whiplash injury many studies have demonstrated the presence of fatty infiltrates in the neck muscles that are not present in healthy subjects. This means that the normal muscles fibres are being interrupted (think marbled beef) and replaced by fat tissue. This decreases the ability of a person to actively use these muscles. The presence of the fat tissue is a sign of advanced degeneration of the muscle tissue and directly affects the overall mechanics of the muscle movement. Those muscles either move or stabilize joints and when the muscles don’t function properly, neither do the joints. The change in joint movement can easily lead to early joint degeneration of the vertebrae in the cervical spine which can be a chronic pain issue and cause permanent changes in a person’s posture and function levels.
Whiplash Associated Disorders (WAD) has been the subject of mountains of research in the rehabilitation field. The understanding of the mechanism and physical changes with these injuries has advanced substantially. Along with this, the knowledge about the importance of early intervention has also been established.
A multi-disciplinary approach to the treatment of WAD injuries has been found to be very effective in reducing subjective pain levels, decreasing reliance on prescription pain medications and facilitating successful return to work. By enlisting the help of a few key health professionals, the chances for a quick and full recovery seem to increase significantly. These can include your medical doctor, a chiropractor, massage or physical therapist or acupuncturist to treat the physical side. Sometimes there is also a need for mental or emotional counselling following an accident to facilitate the recovery.
The BC College of Chiropractors and ICBC have negotiated a unique contract to offer easy access to people involved in MVA’s. With this contract, patients are able to see their chiropractor without any financial obligation which can greatly help reduce the stress following an accident, especially if a person is unable to work for any length of time after they are injured. For more patient information you can visit here. As always, you do not need to see a medical doctor prior to seeing another primary health care professional such as a chiropractor.
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This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.