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You may be wondering what actually happens with a whiplash injury. A whiplash can occur whenever you experience a sudden impact. Most whiplash injuries occur while you are sitting stationary in your car and are rear-ended by another car. In the split second before you can brace yourself, your car is pushed forward. Upon impact, your body is pushed deeply into your seat. Your head, being isolated by your neck delays its reaction while your body quickly reaches the limit of your seat.
Then, in a split second, your head changes directions and moves forward to the limit of your seat belt. Then, at last, your head starts moving backwards in the opposite direction. Because your neck is unrestrained by your seat belt, your head is jerked back and then forward beyond its normal limits. It is this “whipping” action of the head that causes injury to the delicate neck structures.
What’s interesting is that it sometimes takes several days, usually about three, before many of the common symptoms such as headaches, neck pain and loss of motion occur. It can take time for the swelling from the micro-tears in the injured ligaments and muscles to accumulate and become irritating. When the integrity of the supportive ligaments is compromised by injury, the muscles get tight to “splint” or guard the injured structures and delicate nerves from further injury.
Over the following few weeks, chemicals released from the injured tissues attract little “spiderman-like” cells to the area called fibroblasts. These cells make a scar or patch material called fibrin to heal and repair the injury. It is essential during these few weeks of repair and healing to restore normal ranges of motion and spinal alignment. If this is not done, the spinal misalignments caused by the injury may end up with a haphazard array of scar tissue that will limit future normal functioning and lead to spinal degeneration.
Specific chiropractic adjustments, therapy and exercise can ensure that you have the best functional restoration. This will greatly decrease the likelihood of chronic pain and stiffness, disc degeneration, and pinched nerves. With stabilization and strengthening of your spinal structures, your vulnerability for future injuries is also decreased.
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