Whiplash damages soft tissue and forces bones to shift out of alignment causing inflammation, pinched nerves and other problems in the future. Seeking chiropractic care after an auto accident is crucial because chiropractors can get the spine and neck back in alignment and prevent long term damage.

What are the most common injuries sustained in a car crash?

Dr. F.J. Schofield: Common injuries in a car crash are injuries to the soft tissues of the neck and the low back, and that can create inflammation, the bones go out of alignment, it causes muscular tension, nerve pressure, and it can create all kinds of problems all over the body because you’re affecting the nerve system, you’re affecting how the body’s moving, and studies out of Yale have shown that a 2.8 mile per hour car accident can actually injure soft tissues. So many times, it doesn’t take that much force to injure the neck and the low back.

Can you tell us exactly what whiplash is and what body parts are most often affected?

Dr. F.J. Schofield: Yeah, so whiplash is basically, your body is moving with the car, or you’re standing still. You have no momentum or your body’s going forward and then another force comes in. Either it quickly induces motion or it quickly stops your motion, so then your head snaps forward or snaps backwards or snaps sideways depending on how you’re hit and then comes back to center essentially, so what happens is you’re exceeding the amount of force the body can handle, and what that does is that injures soft tissues, it causes bones to shift out of alignment and it will create muscular imbalances, muscular tension, contracture, soft tissue swelling, pinching of the nerves. So it can create all kinds of problems all because your body, basically your neck and your head were snapped in a way they’re not supposed to. Damage to the car is not always a good sign because many times if there’s no damage, it means the car didn’t absorb any of the impact and so all that force went into you. A lot of the kind of common things we think about car accidents aren’t actually accurate when you look at the research and the science.

How long can it take for these symptoms of whiplash to manifest?

Dr. F.J. Schofield: This is a really important question and this is widely misunderstood. It can happen right away. There can be pain right away. It can happen in a few days or a few weeks but it can also take months or years for problems to manifest, and this is something I see all the time in my practice. People come in and they say, “Yeah, I had a car accident but I wasn’t injured,” and I’m like, “Okay, well, who evaluated you?” “Well no, no one. I just didn’t have any pain,” or they went to a hospital and had a few X-rays, there was no fractures, no torn ligaments and so they were released, but they didn’t have any specific upper cervical chiropractor or specific chiropractor look at them for misalignments, swelling, muscular tension, that could’ve been caused.

Then, as your body’s out of alignment over time, the muscular tension builds, the swelling builds, the arthritis builds, the nerve pressure builds with mental stress, physical stress, day to day activities now become much, much harder because you’re out of alignment. When you’re out of alignment, your body doesn’t handle the forces of gravity properly. Your head is off center. That creates a lot of muscular tension throughout the whole body and months and years later, people have these problems. I hear it all the time. “Well no, I was fine but then six months later I started having migraines,” or, “No, I was fine and a year later I started having neck pain or back pain.”

I take an X-ray and I say, “You’re out of alignment. You had to have a physical trauma that caused it and it had to be a car accident. It’s the only thing that makes sense.” And so now lots of times they’re stuck paying out of pocket to fix something that wasn’t their fault, so one of the best things you can do, if you’re in a car accident of any kind, just go get checked by a specific chiropractor. They’re going to look at your posture, they’re going to take some X-rays, and if there is a problem, they can fix it right away. It’ll be able to get fixed faster, you won’t have any chronic problems down the road and you’ll just feel much better and you’ll avoid a lot of unnecessary suffering by getting checked and corrected right away.

What are the most common symptoms that people suffering from whiplash experience?

Dr. F.J. Schofield: This is interesting because of course neck pain, low back pain, headaches, migraines, all the time. You see that all the time with whiplash and you also, though, see a lot of anxiety, dizziness, allergies and sleep problems. We don’t know exactly why for sure, but what we believe is happening with that is the nerve pressure. The pressure on the brain stem and the nerves thus affects your mood control so you get the anxiety, affects your immune system and your sinuses so you get the allergies and affects your sleep-wake cycles because you’re affecting the parasympathetic-sympathetic balance so now you see a lot of people having insomnia. They can’t sleep properly.

Anxiety, allergies, and then over time, people, you can heal out of alignment so you can see some numbness and things like that, but by far, the most common, the neck pain, back pain, dizziness, headaches, allergies, anxiety, insomnia, you see all the time with car accidents.

How can chiropractic care help auto accident victims recover?

Dr. F.J. Schofield: If you are injured and you’re knocked out of alignment, if your body isn’t fixed, you’re going to heal out of alignment, and that’s going to create, over time, degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease, all kinds of muscular problems, nerve problems, arthritis, and it’s going to affect your gate. When you affect your gate, you throw your hips and your shoulders off so now you can get knee problems, ankle problems, hip problems, shoulder problems, so chiropractic prevents and fixes all of that. What you’re going to do is you’re going to go in, evaluate the cervical spine and the pelvic spine.

What I do, we’re trained in the NUCCA and orthospinology techniques. Those are the upper cervical techniques, so we give very, very gentle adjustments to the atlas, to the top bone of the neck, to center the head and the neck, untwisting the spine. That balances the shoulder and the hips. That is going to balance muscles in the spine. That’s also going to restore normal joint function, removing any tension in the soft tissues, muscles and nerves, causing proper brain stem function. Brain stem controls the muscles, so now the body will start self-correcting.

You can also go in with, we use a gentle DNFT technique and also some soft tissue work to correct any contracture in the soft tissues or muscles in the body that isn’t being fixed by the correction of the spine, so sometimes there’s still contracture there that you have to go in with your hands and reduce after the body’s in alignment and holding. You’re also insuring proper healing, so the body’s going to heal in alignment, which is so important. You’re going to prevent that degenerative disc disease and joint disease from happening.

Getting checked by a specific chiropractor, especially if you can get a specific upper cervical chiropractor, someone that does the NUCCA technique or the orthospinology technique, or both, is going to be so important. Fixing the neck pain, fixing the back pain, fixing the anxiety, the dizziness, the sleep problems, and preventing all kinds of other issues from happening down the road.

If you are interested in speaking with Dr. F.J. Schofield visit westbendchiropractor.com or call 262-334-8188 to schedule an appointment.

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