So You Have A Whiplash, What Does That Mean?

Just today someone came up to me and asked the question.  THE question.  The one I get often from people that have been in a car accident. Here it is.  “They said I have whiplash. What does that mean?”

Good question.  Fair question.  Too often my brothers and sisters in health care would be graded an “F” in patient communication.  Telling someone they have whiplash qualifies as one of these moments.  All they know is that they’ve been in a car accident (most commonly) and they have neck pain, and they can’t move their neck very far.  But what does it actually mean?

Sometimes I’ve been guilty of telling such people, “Well, you have sprained and strained your neck”.  Honestly, that doesn’t make it much clearer.  I did that today.  (Face palm time).  So let’s take a slightly closer look at what this all means.  Whiplash.  Sprain/Strain.  Confusing terms.

To put it as simply as possible, let’s think about an ankle sprain.  Often this happens when one turns their ankle playing a sport, or stepping off a ledge of some sort and the ankle rolls inward.  Ouch.  When that happens muscles and ligaments are overstretched, sometimes torn, slightly or completely.  The result is pain, swelling, inflammation and loss of mobility.  This is also what happens when someone has a car accident and their head is thrown forward, backward, sideways, or all three.  Muscles and ligaments are once again overstretched and possibly torn.  The same pattern of pain, swelling and inflammation occurs.

Treatment should include ice to control pain and inflammation.  Electrical muscle stimulation to reduce spasm and pain.  Spinal manipulation to improve the motion of the neck joints.  And, as soon as possible, controlled exercise should begin, even if it’s only minute movement.  Studies show that the faster we get movement occurring, the faster they heal, and the longer they stay better.  That’s why we’ll start people immediately (with very few exceptions) on our progressive rehab program for whiplash cases.  Exercise should always be done below the threshold of pain, meaning no sharp pains should be felt.  You’ll hear us repeat that mantra (no sharp pain) often in our rehab area.

Combining our chiropractic care, along with rehabilitation, is the gold standard of care for whiplash injuries.  If you or a loved one has suffered from this type of injury, get them to a chiropractor sooner rather than later!

Until next time….Be Well!
Dr. Bruce

Why Does My Back Pain Return??

Many times I’ve heard people or patients of ours talk about their frustrations with their back.  The biggest complaint is that they continue to suffer from recurring episodes of back pain.  Often, as the patient ages, their pain becomes more severe, and the episodes more frequent.  That can be disconcerting to say the least.  Our focus at HealthSource is to help our patients get to the point where the chances of those episodes recurring are as remote as possible.  So let’s discuss why these situations can occur, and what can be done to minimize them.

The biggest reason back pain recurs can be summed up in one word:  Weakness.  Studies have shown that people with recurring back pain or chronic back pain have a group of muscles that need to be addressed.  They are called the multifidi.  They are small intrinsic muscles deep in the back right next to the vertebrae.  They function to create stability so that the everyday micro-traumas, and the occasional macro-trauma, have less effect on the patient.  Unfortunately, these muscles are found to be weak and atrophied (shrunken) in patients with recurring back pain.  So, these muscles need to be strengthened..  Our progressive rehab specifically addresses those muscles to maximize a patient’s spinal health.

Another challenge causing recurring back pain is not following through with a recommended program of care.  Patients sometimes feel they are better before they are completely better.  And when the pain goes away, so does their commitment to finish care.  This leads to incomplete healing, leaving the patient susceptible to further episodes of back pain.  And each exacerbation creates more scar tissue, leading to more challenges for healing to be complete.

Lastly, a patient’s overall health impacts their healing capabilities..  Poor health habits mean poor healing.  It’s as simple as that.  If a patient smokes, is obese, has too much stress, and eats horribly, they will likely have a poorer result compared to a patient that takes better care of their body.  To help with that, we provide a Health Risk Assessment to evaluate a patient’s health habits and help them fine tune those habits to maximize healing.

In short, make sure your care includes proper rehab for your back pain, and you keep your back strong, follow your chiropractor’s recommendations to a “T”, and be sure to keep your overall health rocking for optimum results!

Until Next Time….Be Well!

Dr. Bruce