WHIPLASH IS NOT A DIAGNOSIS
OR TYPE OF INJURY,
WHIPLASH IS A MECHANISM OF INJURY.
At Corrective Chiropractic we treat a lot of patients with injuries due to whiplash. If you’ve been in a car accident it’s possible that you have an injury due to whiplash BUT you do not have whiplash. Your injury may be caused by an acceleration and deceleration motion known as whiplash but whiplash is not a specific kind of injury. Whiplash is not a diagnosis! Again WHIPLASH IS NOT A DIAGNOSIS! I cannot emphasize this enough.
Sadly, it is not uncommon for patients to come into our office for chiropractic care under the impression that the injury they sustained from their car accident is called whiplash. This is both dangerous and wrong. There are many different types of injuries that you can have from a whiplash motion. I.e. neck sprain/strain, numerous different kinds of neck fractures, ligament damage in the neck causing spinal instability and deformation, etc. Some of these fractures are minor and some are potentially deadly.
You may have an injury from whiplash but your injury is not whiplash.
Whiplash is a mechanism of injury like a gunshot or a stab wound is a mechanism of injury. Both can cause very severe or even relatively minor injuries. It’s important to know both what kind of injury and the severity of the injury that was caused. For example, a shallow stab wound in the arm could result in a laceration of the skin and deltoid muscle requiring a few stitches. Conversely, a stab wound could result in a laceration of the heart and death. It’s important to investigate the full severity of the injury. No one would say you have a stab wound and then make an assumption that it’s just a “soft tissue” injury and therefore not significant.
The same principles apply to the infamous “soft tissue” injury claims that are so common from car insurance adjustors. Don’t be fooled. Don’t assume that your injury is just a “soft tissue” injury that requires only a few weeks of treatment from a car accident. This statement is just as misleading and erroneous as the above statement about whiplash being a specific diagnosis. A “soft tissue” injury can constitute a myriad of different types and severity of injuries sustained in a car accident from whiplash.
The difference is in the x-rays.
Recently we had a patient that was involved in a significant car accident. Where whiplash caused some noteworthy damage to the ligaments in her cervical spine resulting in cervical instability. This type of injury is common as a result of whiplash sustained in rear-end car accident collisions. The nature of the injury changed the shape of her neck to the point that it was not a normal “C” shaped curve. In fact, her neck was facing the opposite direction. This kind of injury if left untreated or WILL (not could) progress into cervical degeneration. When this happens the bones develop bone spurs and the disc(s) shrink and decay to the point that the joint is bone on bone and eventually completely fused together. This kind of degeneration is a guarantee but often not even noticeable until months or years later.
Corrective Chiropractic VS Traditional Chiropractic
For chiropractors trained in these type of whiplash induced injuries, it’s easy to recognize these injuries so they can be corrected to prevent spinal and disc degeneration. However, some chiropractors fail to or refuse to treat these injuries adequately. There is a lot of risks that they will not be paid in full for their services. Insurance companies are quick to claim essentially all car accident injuries are only “soft-tissue injuries” that typically take only 6 weeks to heal. Chiropractors knowledgeable in the most up to date research, are able to prove that injuries are significant due to whiplash motion due to a car accident.
While the insurance company is wrong, and they know it, many patients or lawyers do not want to suffer through the long and costly process of a court case. Worse yet, the patients are given the impression from their lawyer that their medical bills are negotiable or will be written off by their provider. They say this because sometimes it can be common for pain based chiropractors. Specifically, chiropractors who focus on high volume chiropractic care. This model of chiropractic treats a lot of people quickly. Whereas a structurally focused chiropractor focus on more comprehensive chiropractic. These corrective chiropractors are able to fully correct the injury and prevent the degenerative spinal pathologies discussed above. This cannot be done treating only pain and symptoms.
Even more common is for a patient to receive no care because their medical doctor treats only their symptoms with drugs. Medical doctors are untrained in identifying and correcting these types of structural injuries. As a result, many patients believe their injuries from the car accident are not significant or offer no longer term risk, when in fact, they do. It’s very misleading for patients to be misdiagnosed. Then to have their symptoms treated with drugs or pain based chiropractic. Then to find out later that their whiplash induced spinal injury left them with a reverse cervical curve.
The symptoms from these whiplash induced injuries can often be reduced or go away in a short period of time giving the impression of a simple sprain/strain neck injury. However, they are anything but simple. The whiplash motion is very effective at damaging the ligaments that hold the neck in a normal form (a “C” shaped curve). As a result, the normal “C” shape turned to a reversed “C” or an “S” shaped neck. These abnormal neck shapes are spinal pathologies that lead to other degenerative spinal pathologies like degenerative disc disease. This is not a possibility but a CERTAINTY!
It’s only a matter of time before the disc(s) or vertebra will decay and degrade. Decaying in the way of disc bulging, disc herniation, spinal stenosis, spinal arthritis or bone spurs, etc. If you’ve been involved in a car accident don’t assume you’re fine. Find the best chiropractor you can that understands and is capable of treating spinal injuries caused by whiplash.