Whiplash is an injury to the neck muscles caused from rapid forward and backward motion of the neck due to trauma, such as a car accident. It can cause acute (short-term) neck pain as well as restricted movement in the neck. This can lead to headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, pain in the shoulders, arms, hands, reduced range of motion and/or low back problems. As the body attempts to adapt to the injuries, symptoms may not surface until weeks or even months later.
Following evaluation of your spine, our team of doctors may order an x-ray or an MRI of your spine to evaluate any degenerative changes that may have existed before your whiplash injury. The diagnostic images and results of your physical and neurological evaluation are compared to develop the best treatment plan.
How Does Medical Rehab Accident Injury Center Help Treat Whiplash?
Medical Rehab Accident Injury Center of Metairie is a multi-disciplinary clinic that uses a combination of Medical, Chiropractic and Physical Therapy to look at the whole person—not just the painful problem. This unique team of doctors at MRAIC view neck pain as unique to each patient, so we don’t just focus on your neck pain. MRAICs emphasizes prevention as the key to long-term health. In addition to these treatments, we may also prescribe therapeutic exercises to help restore normal motion in your spine and reduce whiplash symptoms.
Using this unique approach to treatment, MRAIC ‘s goal is to help you increase your daily activities and return you to maximum health as quickly as possible.
Common causes of neck pain include, but are not limited to:
- Cervical herniated disc.
- Cervical stenosis, which is caused by a herniated disc or degenerative joint, can cause pain to radiate down the arm, and lead to shooting pain and coordination problems in the arms and legs.
- Muscle strain degeneration of the facet joint cartilage.
- Osteoarthritis of weight-bearing joints, such as hips and knees.
Neck pain is the most common complaint when suffering from whiplash. Often this pain goes across the shoulders, up into the head and then down between the shoulder blades. Whiplash injuries tend to affect the tissues in the neck, including the facet joint, discs, as well as the muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves.
The soreness you feel, generally on the back of the neck, often to the right or left of center, is due to facet joint pain. This pain is typically tender to the touch. When you have pain due to the facet joint, your physician will not be able to see it on an x-ray or MRI. Instead, your doctor will have to physically palpate the area to find the problem.
Disc injury tends to be the reason for chronic pain induced by whiplash. The outer wall of the disc (annulus) is made up of fibers that can easily be torn during a car accident. These tears lead to disc bulge, protrusion or herniation, which in turn, cause irritation and compression of the nerves running close to the disc. If left untreated, the disc damage, as a result from the trauma, will accelerate disc degeneration.
The immediate pain that you feel after a car accident is often due to damaged muscles and ligaments. This damage causes stiffness and restricted motion. As the muscles heal, the pain lessens. However, the restricted movement may continue. Damage to the ligaments often results in abnormal movement and instability. If not treated properly the damaged tissue does not heal, but becomes scar tissue, which leads to chronic pain.
One common symptom of chronic neck pain is an ache that radiates down the arm, sometimes into the hands and fingers, accompanied by numbness or tingling. Foraminal stenosis, a condition caused by degenerative changes in the neck joints, involves a herniated disc or a pinched nerve. This in turn causes chronic neck pain.
In addition to the physical exam, you’ll also go through your past medical history with the doctor, and he or she may order imaging tests (X-ray or MRI) to help diagnose the exact cause of your neck pain and determine the best treatment plan.
Lower back pain is often caused by a muscle strain. The muscles in the lower back that help keep your spine erect can become inflamed and spasm. In more serious cases, the pain may be caused by a degenerative condition, such as arthritis, disc disease, or disc herniation.
A degenerative disc condition can sometimes cause a chain reaction of other events in your spine. When a disc is not in its proper place, or is malformed from disease or some other condition, it can allow additional undue pressure on other healthy structures, such as neighboring discs, nerves, muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons.
Rest, ice or heat therapy, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine, such as aspirin, are often the first course of treatment for mild lower back pain. This allows your muscles to return to their normal position and begin to heal. Because the thoracic spine is the sturdiest part of the spine, it is less prone to injury. That said, upper back pain, while less common than lower back pain, is often caused by irritation of the muscles or a problem with a joint. Other less common causes of upper back pain include herniated or degenerative discs.
The team of doctors at MRAIC of Metairie will evaluate the condition and often consult with neurologists, radiologists, neurosurgeons and orthopedic specialists to determine the best treatment plan and program of care for patients with disc involvement.
If you have a headache, you’re not alone. Nine out of 10 Americans suffer from headaches. Some are occasional, some frequent, some are dull and throbbing, and some cause debilitating pain and nausea.
Headaches have many causes, or “triggers.” These may include foods, environmental stimuli (noises, lights, stress, etc.) and/or behaviors (insomnia, excessive exercise, blood sugar changes, etc.). About 5 percent of all headaches are warning signals caused by physical problems. The remaining 95 percent of headaches are primary headaches, such as tension, migraine, or cluster headaches. These types of headaches are not caused by disease; the headache itself is the primary concern.
The greatest majority of primary headaches are associated with muscle tension in the neck. Today, Americans engage in more sedentary activities than in the past, and more hours are spent in one fixed position or posture (such as sitting in front of a computer). This can increase joint irritation and muscle tension in the neck, upper back and scalp, causing your head to ache.
MRAIC uses a multi-disciplinary approach to examine the patient and determine a treatment plan to correct the condition.
Sciatica is characterized by pain that originates in the low back or buttock that travels into one or both legs. Sciatic nerve pain varies in intensity and frequency; minimal, moderate, severe and occasional, intermittent, frequent or constant.
Pain is described as dull, achy, sharp, toothache-like, pins and needles or similar to electric shocks. Other symptoms associated with sciatica include burning, numbness and tingling sensations. Sciatica is also called radiating or referred pain, neuropathy, or neuralgia. A misconception is that sciatica is a disorder—however, sciatica is really a symptom of a disorder.
Sciatica is generally caused by sciatic nerve compression. Disorders known to cause sciatic nerve pain include lumbar spine subluxations (misaligned vertebral body/ies), herniated or bulging discs (slipped discs), pregnancy and childbirth, tumors, and non-spinal disorders such as diabetes, constipation, or sitting on one’s back pocket wallet.
The sciatic nerve runs beneath the piriformis muscle. The piriformis muscle is located in the lower part of the spine, connects to the thighbone, and assists in hip rotation. This muscle is susceptible to injury from a slip and fall, hip arthritis, or a difference in leg length. Such situations can cause cramping and spasm to develop in the piriformis muscle, thereby pinching the sciatic nerve and causing inflammation and pain.
Sciatic nerve compression may result in the loss of feeling (sensory loss), paralysis of a single limb or group of muscles (monoplegia), and insomnia. The type of therapy provided depends on the cause of the patient’s sciatica. A sciatica treatment plan may include several different treatments such as ice/cold therapies, ultrasound, TENS, and spinal adjustments.
With the exception of the first 2 vertebrae in the neck—the atlas (C1) and the axis (C2)—there is an intervertebral disc between each vertebra of the spine. Discs act as a shock absorber and a shock distributor, and provide flexibility. Trauma or injury to the spine can cause discs to bulge, herniate, or rupture.
Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is the gradual degeneration of the
discs that reside between the vertebrae in the spine.
After through examination and determination that you have DDD, and back pain is a main symptom, MRAIC Doctors look at 3 main causes:
- Degeneration in the spinal joints may be disturbing the mechanics of the spine.
- Thinning and degenerative discs might be bulging and putting pressure on spinal nerves.
- Spinal stenosis can cause back pain and leg pain.
Once the cause of the condition is determined, a treatment plan to reduce back pain and other symptoms of DDD will be made.