After a whiplash injury, everyone wants to know, when will I be better? When will my neck pain or back pain resolve? Most people think that musculoskeletal pain can be used as a direct indicator of how they are progressing and that the absence of pain indicates the absence of injury. This couldn’t be further from the truth! In order to understand why this isn’t true we need to understand how our body works.
We get millions of pieces of sensory information from our outside surroundings everyday; however we cannot consciously be aware of everything. If this were the case, light touch would be irritating and eventually drive us insane. This means that we can only consciously be aware of the information that is beyond our pain threshold. Therefore, after an injury we usually feel pain because this exceeds our pain threshold and is the loudest of the sensory pieces of information.
However...when it comes to recovering from a whiplash injury or any other soft tissue injury for that matter...the pain often goes away or subsides before the soft tissues are fully repaired. And it is at this point in the healing process that one is most prone to re-injury.
So now the question is, how do I know I am better? First things first, you need to make sure you have the correct diagnosis for the injury, and chiropractors are experts at diagnosing and treating whiplash injuries. Without knowing the full extent of the injury, and whether or not there is damage to the nerves or not, it makes it very difficult to manage a whiplash properly.
Some of the most common symptoms of whiplash are neck pain, shoulder pain, and back pain. Headaches and arm pain, numbness, and tingling are also associated with whiplash trauma.
Without a proper work-up and diagnosis, you can never be sure whether you are better or not because you don’t know what you need to monitor.
Chiropractors monitor function in addition to pain levels. Things like cervical and lumbar range of motion. Muscle strength tests. Muscle spasms. Inflammation. Tender spots on spine. Orthopedic Tests. Sensation Tests. Posture. Nerve stretch tests. X-rays and MRI.
It is always best to have injuries evaluated, treated, and monitored by a professional who is familiar with your particular injury, and chiropractors are expert whiplash doctors. No matter how small you believe the injury to be (even a fender bender can cause whiplash), to avoid long term problems and have a speedy recovery, seek professional care.
Once evaluated and diagnosed, your doctor can correctly assess what needs to be monitored and activities to avoid. Again, things like range of motion, functionality of the muscles(strength), ability to perform sports specific activity or activities of daily living, negative orthopedic exams (done by professional), etc. can be used to monitor patient progress. There are many ways to evaluate one’s progress, not just by levels of pain.
Another tip: Never ignore any type of soft tissue injury, hoping it will just go away! Why is this important? Once a tissue is injured, you are at a higher risk of re-injury or even injuring another area of the body. Typically a re-injury is always more severe than the initial injury and is usually when a patient finally decides to seek care. Don’t let this be you! Get care today! Early care is early recovery!
Written By: Lindsay Stephens, D.C.
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