You may have wondered, “If I get hurt in a car accident, who should I go to for treatment of my whiplash problem?” Is there a proven effective treatment for whiplash? This can be quite a challenge as you have many choices available in the healthcare system ranging from drug-related approaches from anti-inflammatory over-the-counter types all the way to potentially addicting narcotic medications. On the other side of the fence, there are nutritional based products such as vitamins and herbs as well as “alternative” or “complementary” forms of treatment such as chiropractic, exercise, and meditation, with many others in between. Trying to figure out which approach or perhaps combined approaches would best serve your needs is truly challenging. To help answer this question, one study reported the superiority of chiropractic management for patients with chronic whiplash, as well as which type of chronic whiplash patients responded best to the care. The research paper begins with the comment from a leading orthopedic medical journal stating, “Conventional [meaning medical] treatment of patients with whiplash symptoms is disappointing.” In the study, 93 patients were divided into three groups consisting of:
• Group 1: Patients with a “coat-hanger” pain distribution (neck and upper shoulders) and loss of neck range of motion (ROM), but no neurological deficits;
• Group 2: Patients with neurological problems (arm/hand numbness and/or weakness) plus neck pain and ROM loss); and,
• Group 3: Patients who reported severe neck pain but had normal neck ROM and no neurological losses.
The average time from injury to first treatment was 12 months and an average of 19 treatments over a 4 month time frame was utilized. The patients were graded on a 4-point scale that described their symptoms before and after treatment. Grade A patients were pain free; Grade B patients reported their pain as a “nuisance;” Grade C patients had partial activity limitations due to pain; and Grade D patients were disabled.
Here are the results:
• Group 1: 72% reported improvement as follows: 24% were asymptomatic, 24% improved by 2 grades, 24% by 1 grade, and 28% reported no improvement.
• Group 2: 94% reported improvement as follows: 38% were asymptomatic, 43% improved by 2 grades, 13% by 1 grade, and 6% had no improvement.
• Group 3: 27% reported improvement as follows: 0% were asymptomatic, 9% improved by 2 grades, 18% by 1 grade, 64% showed no improvement, and 9% got worse.
This study is very important as it illustrates how effective chiropractic care is for patients who have sustained a motor vehicle crash with a resulting whiplash injury. It’s important to note the type of patient presentation that responded best to care had neurological complaints and associated abnormal neck range of motion. This differs from other non-chiropractic studies where it is reported that patients with neurological dysfunction responded poorly when compared to a group similar to the Group A patient here (neck/shoulder pain, reduced neck ROM, and with normal neurological function).
Dr. Paul Curcio