Osteopathy and Car Crashes
What is Whiplash?
The term whiplash refers to an injury which commonly occurs in a car crash, when the head is suddenly thrust backward (into extension) and then forward (into flexion) in a whip-like fashion. This type of injury causes damage to the soft tissue of the neck and can cause a fracture or paralysis.
Whiplash is usually the result of a car crash, but may occur on a roll-a-coaster or even on bumper cars in the fair ground, where an unexpected force is suddenly applied to the neck. Damage may be caused to joints, discs, ligaments, muscles, and nerves of the neck or back.
What symptoms will one experience after a whiplash injury?
One may experience acute neck pain and stiffness. Symptoms may be localised to the neck or may radiate to other areas of the body such as, the shoulder, the mid-back or even the lower back. The symptoms are not always felt immediately following the accident. Often the syptoms of whiplash have a delayed onset of several days or even several weeks.
In addition to neck pain and neck stiffness, other symptoms one may experience include:
- Pain or abnormal sensations such as burning or prickling (paraesthesias) in the arm and legs
- Shoulder pain or back pain
- Hormonal changes
In addition, some people experience cognitive, somatic or psychological conditions such as memory loss, concentration impairment, nervousness/irritability, sleep disturbances, fatigue, or depression .
Whiplash injuries are very complex injuries which can sometimes cause total body pain syndromes. Often, doctors refer to whiplash sufferers as “malingerers”, suspicious of the patient’s desire for increased compensation from the insurance company. This attitude may be due to a lack of understanding, as it is now known that the recovery time for a whiplash injury is often extensive (months and sometimes years) and a large number of whiplash sufferers find daily functioning difficult for longer than expected. Therefore, these patients are seeking continuous medical help.
Studies have shown that whiplash sufferers who have been given an explanation of their condition and its ramifications recover more quickly because their fear of the unknown and feeling of lack of control is significantly reduced.
How can osteopathic treatment help my whiplash injury?
A registered osteopath is trained to recognize and treat many causes of pain. Osteopathic treatment is gentle, specific, and patient-centered, which means that the treatment is geared to your individual needs.
After a whiplash injury, the body is in a fragile state, as a result of the physical and psychological trauma it has undergone. Therefore, the skilled osteopath will employ a variety of gentle hands-on techniques to ease the damaged tissues and provide pain relief. In addition to the hands-on treatment, the osteopath may prescribe exercises or give postural advice.