At Alchemy, one of the most frequent cause of visits is neck pain. We handle all kinds of chronic neck pain, but the most challenging of them all is when it is caused by whiplash. Whiplash is a rapid acceleration extension injury where the head is forcefully and quickly snapped back and forth. It can start from a rear end or front end collision, typically in motor vehicle accidents. One can also get whiplash from a fall, a sports injury, blast from explosives or being hit in a fight (think rabbit punch, or back of the head blows.)
The issue with Whiplash is that it is typically seen as a neck injury. A good Manual therapist will wisely look at other areas as well, particularly the abdomen area. This is where the rapid acceleration begins. This is where it has quietly (in most cases) caused lesions (slight strains) of the organs in the area, which cause dysfunction all over the body. Treating just the neck and spine isn’t enough. One must treat all of the body to achieve the best results.
The best treatment starts 7-10 days post incident, which allows for the swelling or inflammation, if any, to recede. It is best to get an x-ray or MRI to see the damage, if any, that was done.
At Alchemy, we train our therapists to utilize thorough assessment and treatment strategies that historically, have yielded excellent results in returning people to their pre-injury condition. Everybody is different, but we tend to see positive results immediately, and over 10-15 sessions we are usually able to return people to their MMI (Maximum Medical Improvement.)
What makes this possible is our commitment to excellence and training. Our strategies include:
Gait (walking) and Posture (upright standing position) analysis. This helps us to see the relationship between different parts of your body. We look for compensations while you are walking as well as how you stand from 4-5 different angles. Most people who have whiplash are walking with their head and shoulders very stiff, due to the pain, and are standing with their head forward.
After this analysis we begin our sessions with tissue assessment and treatment. Having an eye for assessment can make all the difference between a massage and a Manual Medicine treatment. In a typical session we would assess and treat:
The 3 distinct layers to the neck, each of them are addressed individually.
The cranium, or skull, using soft tissue techniques designed to check the sutures of the skull. These techniques are being used in a study of former NFL players who have had a history of concussions. They are gentle and highly effective with generally no side effects.
The upper rib cage, where your front neck muscles connect. This is often a neglected area that is an area of trauma during a whiplash event.
The abdomen, where the organs are treated using gentle therapies as well.
Upper, mid and lower back. We test and look for muscles that are either overstretched, or over-contracted.
This is an area of distinction where relationships between areas matter. The neck area for example has front muscles that typically are shortened while the back of the neck muscles are too long. The relationship is addressed together, which immediately changes the posture of the individual.
There are other factors when planning a session, especially if the accident is recent. Was the person aware that the impact was coming? Was their head turned, even slightly, to look at the oncoming collision from the rear?
Not all accidents lead to whiplash, but the following list of symptoms (which you can also find on Web MD at http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/guide/pain-management-whiplash) are helpful if you have been in an event that hurt your neck:
· Neck pain and stiffness
· Worsening of pain with neck movement
· Loss of range of motion in the neck
· Headaches, most often starting at the base of the skull
· Tenderness or pain in shoulder, upper back or arms
· Tingling or numbness in the arms
Some people also experience:
· Blurred vision
· Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
· Sleep disturbances
· Difficulty concentrating
· Memory problems
If you have been in a car accident, it is possible to be covered for Medical Massage and manual therapy. At Alchemy we are set up to walk you through all the paperwork needed to get your treatments covered. It is vital that you get treated as soon as possible to get best results. See your Doctor or Chiropractor to get a referral for manual therapy. We will treat you holistically, focusing on not only your whiplash, but your nervous system as well. Typically people are on high alert following these type of events.
Even if it has been a long time since your injury, we can make progress with chronic pain, even in just a few sessions. While whiplash is one of the more difficult injuries to treat, we are proud to have been able to help so many people, even those who had surgery and were still in pain.
We also recommend combining treatments with Acupuncture and 1:1 Yoga Therapy, also available at Alchemy.
Eli Peltz, BS, LMBT.
A Board Certified massage therapist, Eli continues to learn and grow as a therapist. He is currently undergoing an extensive training in Visceral and Neural-Meningeal manipulation and has trained in Myofascial Release, Structural Integration and a host of other modalities, which he combines to form Manual Medicine. He has practiced massage since 2004 and currently runs a thriving private practice in Boone, NC.