Why you have Whiplash

Whiplash is a pain in the neck! We see it in our Boynton Beach office all the time. It involves chemical inflammation of the lower cervical spine and spreads to the lower back and shoulders. The chemical inflammation is typically created through a physical disturbance of the canals in the body that the nerve runs through. The most likely physical disturbances are in one of the two following locations:

  • Intervertebral foraman of the cervical spine (the spot where it exits the spinal column)
  • the Spinal Canal (where your spinal cord lies)

The physical disturbances can be caused by any number of the following:

  • herniated disc
  • bulging disc
  • stenosis
  • upper thoracic spine dysfunction
  • instability of the cervical spine or thoracic girdle
  • etc

Most of these conditions develop from a single violent mechanism in the motor vehicle accident. It might have been a specific event (the accident itself) that pushed you over the edge, but more likely than not, the descructive factors have been building for years.

Whiplash Predisposing Factors

1. Poor Upper Torso Flexibility - Sometimes people are born with poor flexiblity in their upper torso as a result of their anatomy. The shapes of their vertebrae just don't lead to great movement. The majority of us, on the other hand, sit too much and don't move enough in all the different ranges of motion to maintain proper flexibility. As a result, when you move your body, since the movement isn't coming from the upper torso, innapropriate and excessive motion will occur in the neck, which will lead to your pain.

2. Inflexibility of the Shoulders or Upper Torso - When there is a lack of flexibility in the shoulders or upper torso, and a movement of the arm is made, abnormal stresses are placed upon the lower back and pelvis. The lower torso isn't designed to rotate very much, but in the absence of proper upper torso flexibility it's forced to. That leads to excessive tension and stress on the lower back.

3. Poor Core Stability - Based on the explanation provided for the first two factors, an environment of excessive movement takes place in the upper back. That overburdens the upper back muscles leaving you with a feeling of tension, stiffness, or tightness. In reality that whole environment only occurs because of too much movement in the lower back and inadequate control.

Whiplash Treatment Options

Beyond an orthopedic and range of motion testing to the immediate structures involved in the injury, the second aspect to look at is what predisposing factors are at play. Once found there would be a combination of:

1. Joint Manipulation to any joint restriction in the spine or neck (performed by a chiropractor or trained physical therapist).

2. Soft Tissue Manipulation to any adhesion, scar tissue, or imbalances in the musculature surrounded the neck and shoulder girdle. The treatment options involve Active Release Technique (ART), Graston Technique, Trigger Point treatment, muscle energy techniques, etc.

3. Exercises aimed at retraining the movement and control of the body at the upper torso, neck, and shoulders. Typically involving increasing the upper torso flexibility, upper cervical spine flexibility and shoulder girdle control.

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