If you are here, either you or someone you care about has been injured in a car accident and may have suffered whiplash. You have likely begun to experience neck pain (especially pain in the back of the neck and head), headaches, arm pain, fatigue, low back pain, perhaps even irritability and difficulty concentrating. We at Family Chiropractic are sorry that this accident happened to you. Having dealt with many patients who have sat right where you are we appreciate the pain you are going through. Please allow us to say that you are in the right place to learn more about this condition and get the treatment you need. Based on our experience with patients and our extensive study in this area, we have a few prepared frequently asked questions below for you. At Family Chiropractic, we have dedicated a portion of our practice to dealing with this injury.
While Hinsdale, Westmont, Oak Brook, Western Springs Clarendon Hills and Elmhurst certainly don’t have the traffic of downtown Chicago, the western suburbs aren’t lacking for the risk of car accidents and suffering whiplash. After an accident, you can have many questions. Below are common questions asked by patients:
What are symptoms of whiplash?
Whiplash symptoms are generally caused by a car accident, but this injury can come from a number of activities. Symptoms vary from person to person but the most common are neck pain (especially pain in the back of the neck), headaches, arm pain, shoulder pain, low back pain, dizziness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, tinnitus (ringing in ears), numbness in the hands or arm, TMJ (jaw) pain and even blurred vision. These symptoms are generally the result of the rapid acceleration and deceleration that occurs in a car accident. The forces that your body is put under occur to quickly for it to protect itself and damage occurs, most often to the ligaments. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you need to be evaluated by a qualified health care professional. If you symptoms also include nausea, you may have a concussion and it EXTREMELY important you be evaluated as soon as possible. Concussions are the result of mild traumatic brain injuries and the sooner you get evaluated, the better.
Do I need to see a professional for a whiplash injury?
This is not a simple answer, but, if you are concerned enough to be searching information on the internet, it is best to see a professional trained in whiplash so you can be properly evaluated and treated. This injury can be extremely debilitating, causing headaches, neck pain, mid back pain, arm pain, dizziness, altered sensation in the arms and hands, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, depression and a number of other issues. The damage to your body is likely some of the most severe damage you will ever encounter and needs to not only to be treated, but also be treated by someone who is familiar with this unique injury. Besides the short term pain and suffering, this injury can also cause problems for the rest of your life. Approximately 12% of the population has chronic neck pain, and over half (55%) of them attribute it to car accident. Going to a trained professional can put your concerns to rest and begin the appropriate treatment.
Why do I hurt more a day after the accident?
This is a very common question. Often, we have patients who felt "fine, but shaken" after the accident to only to experience extreme whiplash pain the next day. Without going into a technical discussion about the buildup inflammatory chemicals and the adrenaline jolt that you received, there is a easier description. Most people at some point in their lives have done an especially hard work out without being in proper shape for it. While they usually feel slightly sore, or even pretty good, immediately following it the next day is when the real pain and soreness hits.
Whiplash is the common term for an injury to the cervical spine (neck) that occurs most often when another car hits yours from behind (this injury can also occur in sports, horseback riding and a number of other activities). It consists of a hyperextension (looking up beyond the normal range of motion) part that occurs from the initial contact when the car is accelerated forward and your head lags behind your body. The next aspect is a flexion (looking down) that occurs when your body pulls your head forward with it. This all occurs in 200 milliseconds, which is too fast for your body to respond. In this time frame, the primary injury is to the ligaments. Ligament injuries are extremely painful and, due to the low blood flow, take a long time to heal. If they aren’t properly treated, they may not heal at all and will lead to chronic neck pain. This is one of the many reasons that these injuries must be properly evaluated and treated by a knowledgeable professional.
What happened in the accident?
This is a very individual question, obviously, but here is one of the more common scenarios that patients have. You are stopped at a red light, a stop sign or otherwise not moving in traffic when suddenly you feel a jolt and are shot forward. A person who wasn’t paying attention has crashed into your car. Depending on the speed of the other car, how well your bumpers line up, and the stiffness of your car’s frame, the amount of damage done to your car can range from a “fender bender” to totaling your car. One very important thing to remember is that the amount of damage to your car is not related to how injured you are. This has been proven in the literature and in our office. After the “bullet car” strikes your “target car”, your car accelerates because of the force put into it. It also accelerates your body faster than the car because it isn’t as heavy and then it accelerates your head and neck which is faster yet, again because of the decreased mass. So while your car lurches forward, your head and neck go forward further and faster. This acceleration occurs in 200 milliseconds, which is too fast for you to react and in that time the tissues in your body are damaged, most notably the ligaments.
Do I need to see a lawyer?
This is a question we can’t answer. While we will happily treat patients who are being represented by lawyers and those who aren’t, that is a decision that a patient must make on their own. We do work with a number of skilled attorneys who focus on this particular area of the law and will be happy to refer you to them. While we don’t offer legal advice, we have undergone further training in the specifics of medical documentation for personal injury cases. This greatly reduces the risk of a claim being denied and you not receiving the benefits you are entitled to because of documentation errors.
How do I pay for treatment?
At Family Chiropractic, we know what a hassle medical insurance can be, much less the medical aspect of auto insurance. How highly trained staff will verify all of your benefits from the multiple carriers (your insurance, the other party's insurance, your medical insurance, etc.) that may be involved and explain to you the specifics. Briefly though, it works very similarly to how your insurance pays for a damaged car. For a basic idea, if you were not the driver at fault, the other driver’s insurance will pay for your care. If they don’t have sufficient insurance, the Under Insured Motorist portion of your insurance will then take over. Most insurances also have a section called “Medical Payments” that are designed for your medical care should you get in an accident. This is available to you regardless of fault. Insurance verification can be extremely complicated for someone who isn't trained to do it and does it on a regular basis. Our office will educate you on your benefits available and make sure that you get the maximum coverage.
What kind of doctor should I see?
This information is assuming that you have already been treated at the scene of the accident and released by emergency medical technicians or gone to a hospital and been released from there. One quick thing to say about Emergency Departments at modern hospitals, they routinely perform acts of advanced life saving techniques that were unthought of 10 years ago. Once it’s clear that your situation is no longer that serious, you need to leave. While these departments are phenomenal for urgent care, they are not designed for the long term management that needs to be undertaken for this condition. You need to see someone who has undergone further training in this specific injury and also is familiar with the medical legal aspects involved. Approximately 37% of all whiplash injury cases are treated by chiropractors and studies show that the multi-modal approach employed at this office involving chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, deep tissue massage and physical rehabilitation is superior to passive treatments involving medications.
What will treatment consist of?
The chiropractic treatment of whiplash has been proven to be very successful as compared to traditional medical care as evidence by peer reviewed research and patient satisfaction surveys. A large amount of the research done on whiplash as actually been completed by chiropractors.
The most essential part of having an appropriate treatment is to have an accurate diagnosis. At our office you will receive a thorough exam and digital static and motion x-rays to determine the extent of the injury. Important findings include: pain going into the arms, altered sensation, dizziness, headaches, and ligament damage. The goal of initial treatment is to get you out of pain and prevent excessive scar tissue formation which will adversely affect long term prognosis. This phase can last up to 3 months, or longer, depending on the severity of the injury. Therapies usually given in this time frame include deep tissue massage, chiropractic adjustments, targeted exercises and activities of daily living. During the initial phase of treatment, patient participation is key. There will certain activities you will have to avoid and other stretches and exercises you will need to perform. The initial phase is where the biggest impact on long term prognosis is made and you are the most important part. In the next phase, more focus is placed on active exercise and returning normal biomechanics (function).
How long will my whiplash treatments last?
- There are a number of factors that must be considered, as with all injuries:
- Severity of the injury
- Time treatment was initiated
- Patient compliance to treatment plan
- Were seat belts worn
- Headrest height
- Overall health of the patient
- Pre-existing spinal conditions
The best way to complete a successful treatment in the shortest time possible is to begin treatment as soon as possible and follow the recommendations completely. As time progresses, the risk of the injury becoming chronic grows with every minute. Don't gamble on your health, call our office at 630-455-4545 to schedule a consultation.