What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a common name for what is more appropriately known as cervical acceleration-deceleration. Whiplash is one of many possible injuries from car accidents, and is where the neck & head are tossed about too violently. It is a combination of soft tissue injury involving damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and often cervical spine misalignment.
Whiplash can take a long time to fully heal, typically anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. The full duration of the injury depends very greatly on how much of what tissue type is damaged, with highly vascular (blood-vessel) filled tissue (like muscle) healing most quickly, whereas low vascular tissue (eg ligaments) can take very long to repair. People who get whiplash often get treated with multiple healing methods, including chiropractic, massage, and acupuncture.
Acupuncture can be very helpful for people who suffer from whiplash, for a variety of reasons. As with any soft tissue injury acupuncture is very effective at relieving pain and breaking up muscle tension, similar to how a massage works. But it’s true strength lies in helping heal tissue types that are more stubborn to recover – tendons and ligaments. Inserting an acupuncture needle promotes blood flow to wherever the needle is placed, so acupuncture can encourage fresh blood and nutrients to move into tissue types that don’t normally get a lot of blood flow. This helps tendons & ligaments recover more quickly. Acupuncture is the only treatment method suitable for this – you can’t get massage right after a car accident, and chiropractic doesn’t touch soft tissue injury at all.
For those who have cervical spine alignment problems, acupuncture is also helpful in conjunction with chiropractic care. Chiropractors work exclusively on the skeletal structure and can put the spine back in alignment, but if you have persistent muscle tension or bruising – as is very common with car accidents – your muscles might pull the spine right back out. Acupuncture is the best method to use along with chiropractic care for right after whiplash injury because of this – you can get at all factors that keep you in pain and recovery much faster.
Acupuncture is also helpful for other effects common to whiplash or injuries from car accidents – headaches, shoulder pain, back ache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and inflammation in the soft tissues around the neck. Typically these can be treated right along with the whiplash injury at the same time, making treatment effective and thorough.
If you’ve had the unfortunate luck of being in a car accident and suffer from residual effects, consider adding acupuncture to your care. It will make your recovery that much faster.
(Image credit: Simon Harriyott)