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Are Extremity Pains & Injury Part of Whiplash?

Many consider Whiplash an injury of the neck only! What a surprise it is…unfortunately, when this happens to somebody, and they discover there’s a lot more going on with their injury than just their neck, or that their neck doesn’t have pain, but other areas do. Extremities (arms, legs, jaws, ribs) along with all the parts they include, are quite frequently injured, and need care too. Also, unfortunately, many don’t realize that aside from Chiropractic care being an extremely, if not the most important form of treatment they could receive for these types of injuries, also treats extremity injuries, and related problems. In our Minneapolis/St. Paul Chiropractic Clinic patients become quickly aware, surprised, and pleased that we will be addressing not only their neck or back, but also, if necessary, their shoulder, wrist, knee, etc., etc. Considering what happens in an auto injury, its not surprising that extremity joints get injured, and that “whiplash” then turns out to be a “total body injury”. With this in mind its worth considering:

  • What happened in the car collision?
  • What possibly got hurt?
  • Why did that get hurt?
  • What can be done about it?

Recently we began treating a woman struck from behind by another vehicle. She was jerked forward, actually bent quite a bit forward at the waist, and then jerked back again. She had some mild neck pain, but just as much if not more pain around her lower mid back that travelled around the front of her, and left arm and shoulder. Her hips ached and she was stiff there. So, she did have the characteristic “whipping” action from a car collision, but not surprisingly she had multiple problems that came from it, and not where you might think.

Whiplash PicsConsidering the actions of her body from the forces exerted through the vehicles, her neck and back had gone through a split second reversal of the so-called front to back “S” curves of her spine. These forces were able to travel deeply to the supporting ligaments, “deeper” tissues of her spine, and discs. And in her mid back, the ribs that attach to the spine by way of joints, were also effected by the quick whipping motion. Everything “happened so fast” that she was not aware of all the possible protective things she had done in that split second of impact, but being stopped as she was, with one foot on the brake and one on the floorboard, its easy to imagine that when she was struck she just automatically pushed harder with her feet and legs to protect herself, resulting in problems with her hips. The same is true of her arms and hands bracing on the steering wheel. Now when we put the effect of her seat belt on her left shoulder, slanted down across her rib cage, and wrapped around her middle when she was jerked forward, we start to see why additional areas of injury could occur. The belt stopped her from striking the steering wheel but created its own jerking and sudden stopping of her forward motion.

Car Accident ForceWhen “un-prepared for” forceful jerks, jolts, pushes, pulls, stops and twists happen to the human frame, little as well as big injuries occur. Joints are moved beyond normal tolerances, and react by becoming “stuck” or losing some of their motion. The muscles, ligaments and tendons become overly stretched, strained or torn – even if just microscopically. Discs can be bulged beyond their normal contours as a result of being torn. In a car collision, these are the very things that do occur…along the spine, and up and down the arms and legs. In this woman’s case the forces exerted on her created neck and back injury, but also shoulder/arm, rib and hip injuries. Inflammation or swelling accompanies these types of injury, along with joint dysfunction or fixation, and muscle, tendon and ligament tears.

Over-all management of all the effected parts has to occur to help with the best chance of recovery. The joints need to be gotten moving and re-trained back towards normal. In our Minneapolis/St. Paul Chiropractic Clinic we do this with precise, effective, and very comfortable instrument assisted adjustments. Pain, inflammation and spasm of the muscles is addressed with advanced “cold laser” therapy, along with a variety of other therapies and rehabilitative exercise. Our patients are also instructed in home-care measures to deal with pain, inflammation and how to cope with everyday activities so they can advance their progress versus slow it. Areas more severely injured or weakened from the trauma are protected with various orthopedic supports and kinesiotape  strapping procedures. This can even involve supporting the feet properly with flexible, custom orthotics to help not only the foot structures but all the way up through the entire body. Multiple sites of injury require comprehensive and thorough approaches, with attention to getting to a point of full rehabilitation, otherwise the chances of lifelong injury effects can increase.

“Whiplash” – a “total body injury” easily involves and encompasses the arms, legs, ribs, jaws and head. Human bodies are no match for even the so-called slow speed “fender bender”. Even with no immediate or apparent symptoms, it is best to be checked for possible injury. And always seek professional care with those providers skilled and able to provide diagnosis and treatment for all aspects of an injury that comes from a car accident.

By Dr. William T. Norlin Chiropractor in Minneapolis/St Paul, Minnesota