The doctors and therapist at Graham Rehabilitation have assisted and treated thousands of cases of whiplash related trauma with tremendous success. We not only offer experience in treatment approaches, but our center is aware of the medicolegal aspects of whiplash type cases providing clear documentation of your injuries and recovery for the insurance companies involved.
Comprehensive Treatment Approach
Studies have demonstrated that the structures injured in a whiplash accident include the spinal joints and associated ligaments, the discs and the muscles. Diagnosis of joint injury is difficult and sometimes not detected by standard orthopedic testing. Specialized x-rays and an experienced hands-on evaluation are the most effective way to detect joint injury. Our center offers evaluation and treatment that accounts for all of the injured tissues, thereby providing patients the best opportunity for recovery.
Injury to the ligaments are among the most common when someone is in pain following an automobile related trauma. The following information is intended to assist your understanding of how ligament injuries should be treated.
Ligaments are fibrous connective tissues that connect and hold our bones together. Their job is to provide stability to the joints. Under a microscope, the fibers of a ligament are very organized. They run parallel to one another thereby providing strength in a single direction (Figure 1).
When a joint is strained in an automobile accident the ligaments are stretched beyond normal anatomical limits causing microscopic (small) tears in the parallel fibers (Figure 2).
When ligaments are not properly addressed with treatment, they heal with unorganized tissue called scar. Scar tissue has fibers running in random directions and is weaker, less elastic and easily torn during normal functional loads (Figure 3). When an injured ligament heals with a large percentage of scar tissue a person is much more susceptible to ongoing and recurring aggravations and pain. All of us know people who have suffered neck injuries and never fully recover or continue to have episodes of pain. This is due to healing with a lot of scar tissue.
When controlled demands are placed on the ligaments during the healing process, scar formation reduces significantly. This process is known as functional healing. Functional healing reduces scar formation and promotes the regeneration of stronger, more organized ligamentous tissue following an injury (Figure 4). With functional healing, the ligament is more normal in appearance and functions more like a healthy ligament. Risk of ongoing pain and re-injury is reduced.
A chiropractic adjustment is a gentle and specific therapy that uses the bones as levers to treat the injured spinal ligaments and disc tissue. After injury, the damaged ligaments will begin to heal whether they are being treated or not. Ligaments heal by the formation of scar tissue. Scar tissue is weaker, less elastic and more pain sensitive than normal ligament tissue. In a process known as functional healing, chiropractic adjustments reduce the percentage of scar that forms in the tissue and elevates the quality of the healing process. Less scar tissue means more function with less pain and long term problems.
Physical medicine includes a variety of techniques designed to reduce inflammation and pain, increase circulation, promote functional healing, and strengthen. Our programs are progressive and structured to the individual needs for each patient. In our office, each rehabilitative session is one-on-one with a licensed physician or therapist. This insures that your time is well spent performing therapeutic activities properly.
Standard treatment often focuses on reducing inflammation with medications and rest. If the pain does not resolve or the severity is disabling, patients are often referred for physical therapy where treatment efforts can be one dimensional and not customized for each patients needs. Functional healing of the ligaments is poorly addressed as physical therapists are not licensed to provide chiropractic care. There is a consensus in the current research that while muscles are typically painful and stiff, the joint structures (injured ligaments) are driving the pain and must be the focus of treatment in order to prevent chronic pain from developing. Spinal manipulative therapy (chiropractic) addresses this issue like no other treatment allowing ligaments to heal with reduced scar formation.
Studies tell us that without appropriate treatment the pain from whiplash injuries can reappear for years after the accident. People who suffer from repeated neck pain after a whiplash trauma are far more likely to develop degenerative arthritis in their neck. Early interventions that promote functional healing like chiropractic, physiotherapy and massage are critical to reduce the risk of degenerative arthritis.
In 1995, 5.5 million Americans were injured in motor vehicle accidents. Approximately one third of those injured continued to complain of serious neck pain 6 weeks after the accident. Approximately 15 million Americans currently complain of chronic whiplash symptoms. It is quite obvious that most people injured in motor vehicle accidents don not receive appropriate treatment that includes functional healing of the ligaments and spinal joints.
Although wearing seat belts has prevented countless life-threatening injuries, whiplash injuries have doubled since mandatory seat belt laws were introduced. The seat belt restrains the body, not the neck. It can act as a fulcrum increasing the whipping action of the head and injury to the neck. The joint structures in the neck are particularly vulnerable to injury during the whiplash trauma.