Whiplash associated disorders (WAD) describes a constellation of symptoms that can arise from the sudden jerk or snap of the head/neck that results in the overstretching of joint capsules, ligaments, muscle tendons, disks, and nerves of the neck and upper back. While it’s estimated that about two million Americans experience a whiplash injury each year, there’s a lot of inaccurate information on WAD. Let’s discuss four common whiplash myths…
Myth #1: Whiplash Is Only Caused By Rear-End Automobile Collisions. Although most WAD injuries are associated with this mechanism, impacts from other directions can also lead to whiplash injuries, as can a slip and fall, sports collision, or even a physical altercation.
Myth #2: Low-Speed “Fender Benders” Don’t Cause Whiplash. It does NOT take a lot of force to become injured. Studies have demonstrated that a collision as slow as 5-10 mph can cause bodily harm. This is partly because modern vehicles are designed to crumple and absorb energy during more forceful impacts. In a low-speed crash, these forces can be transferred to the occupants of the car.
Myth #3: There’s No Rush to See a Doctor. It’s very common for people to delay seeking treatment if it’s not an emergency and if they feel like taking time off work to make a doctor appointment might be more inconvenient than their aches and pains. Or they might think they can self-manage the condition with over-the-counter medications or home remedies. However, in most instances, WAD will not go away on its own, and delaying care can actually increase the risk that one develops chronic WAD.
Myth #4: Recovery from Whiplash Requires a Lot of Rest. Years ago, treatment recommendations emphasized bed rest and a cervical collar. However, the current research supports the opposite approach: continue your normal daily activities as much as possible. Excessive rest and immobilization can weaken tissues, especially cartilage that requires movement to receive nutrients.
Here’s the bottom line: If you’re involved in a car crash or another form of serious collision, get checked out by a healthcare provider as soon as possible. Doctors of chiropractic are a great option, and studies support that early intervention with manual therapies and other forms of conservative care can effectively manage most acute WAD symptoms and reduce the risk for chronicity.