Whiplash Injuries, Like High Blood Pressure For Your Spine

Whiplash Injuries, Like High Blood Pressure For Your Spine

Let me explain.

Untreated hypertension (high blood pressure) can often lead to a deadly heart attack or stroke which is why it earned the moniker as “a silent killer”. While severe whiplash can result in death that’s not the reason for the comparison I’m making between whiplash and high blood pressure. If you die from a whiplash injury it will typically (not always) happen immediately or shortly after the whiplash injury. Car accident deaths from a whiplash spinal cord injury seldom occur since the advent of the seat belt. The problem is the seat belt doesn’t completely prevent whiplash injuries. In fact, there is evidence to show that while much less severe, there are far more whiplash injuries due to modern car design since the invention of seat belts.

I’m absolutely not saying that seatbelts are bad.

Seatbelts prevent a LOT of potential deaths, severe spinal injuries and more by keeping passengers securely fastened in their seat. However, the cost of having your body fixed in the seat during a car accident is that your body goes where the car goes, but your head does not, hence the whiplash. This is why relatively slow speed car accidents can still cause significant injuries leading to chronic problems.

Like with high blood pressure, when you have an injury from whiplash the damage is not always obvious. Many times an injury is quickly evident from neck pain, headaches or other symptoms that started shortly after the car accident. However, it is very common for the true extent of these injuries to be improperly diagnosed. When this happens and go untreated because these symptoms often improve even though the damage from the whiplash injury has not fully healed. Unlike high blood pressure, whiplash injuries are often misdiagnosed as simple “soft tissue injuries”. The responsible party’s insurance company will commonly downplay the severity of your injuries calling it just a “soft tissue injury”. While technically true there are significant differences in the severity of soft tissue injuries that can occur from whiplash.

Whiplash injuries are commonly separated into five different categories. This is according to the Cervical Acceleration / Deceleration developed by Chiropractor Arthur Croft.

Grades of Severity of Injury
Grade I
  • Minimal;
  • No limitation of motion;
  • Ligamentous injury is not evident;
  • No neurological findings
Grade II
  • Slight;
  • Limitation of motion;
  • Ligamentous injury is not evident;
  • No neurological findings
Grade III
  • Moderate;
  • Limitation of motion;
  • Some ligamentous injury;
  • Neurological findings may be present
Grade IV
  • Moderate to Severe;
  • Limitation of motion;
  • Ligamentous instability;
  • Neurological findings present;
  • Fracture or disc derangement
Grade V
  • Severe;
  • Requires surgical management/stabilization

The majority of patients that have whiplash injuries from a car accident fall into Grade I or Grade II. However, there are still a significant amount of car accident victims that sustain Grade III and some Grade IV injuries that go undiagnosed.

Looking at the qualifications for a Grade III whiplash injury and you notice that the indications for this type of injury do not appear to be severe or significant. This is a common assertion which leads to inadequate treatment.  Treatment frequency and duration are specific for each of these Grades of Severity for Whiplash Injuries. And because Grade III injuries can appear minimal or less significant, like high blood pressure, they often go untreated.

Most whiplash victims do not understand the potential severity of Grade III injuries because their chiropractor or medical didn’t educate them or didn’t do a thorough evaluation to identify if they suffered any “ligamentous injury” from the whiplash. Other reasons that cause these injuries to go untreated include;

  • The patient wants to close the case quickly to receive their settlement check.
  • The patient just wants to stop receiving treatment because they are feeling better.

  • The cost of chiropractic care.

  • The responsible party’s insurance company is bullying or threatening to refuse to pay for care.

    • This is a HUGE problem and is commonly done by claiming the “type of injuries that happen with these types of car accidents don’t go longer than 6-12 weeks”.

    • Keep in mind that the insurance adjustor that is literally claiming to know what kind of injury the patient sustained despite having no healthcare training (often they only have a high school education), never done an exam (not that they would know how to), and never even reviews the medical documentation from the treating chiropractor, physical therapist or medical doctor.

    • Medical doctors have no training in recognizing or treating Grade II or Grade III and some Grade IV whiplash injuries. These injuries require more the standard six week maximum of conservative care. Patients may feel better at first but when the case is closed their symptoms can return or become exacerbated. This doesn’t always happen right away and can sometimes take months or even years for these sleeping injuries to develop into moderate or severe chronic pain and symptoms because they were never fully treated. By that time, however, the responsible party cannot be held fully accountable. The patient is left with a life-altering injury that may silently progress to a worse problem like chronic neck pain, back pain, headaches or disc degeneration. That may result in months or even years of treatment if not surgery.

The only conservative care medical doctors can offer is drug therapy. Drugs or prescriptions only reduce or eliminates the symptoms of your injury and does not actually correct any abnormal spinal motion or misalignment that can result from your car accident injury. There is no reason that medical doctors would need to know how to identify the severity of your whiplash injury because they can’t effectively treat Grade II, Grade III, and some Grade IV whiplash injuries. The standard for medical care is check is to look for emergency injuries like fractures or internal bleeding. Chiropractors training is not in diagnosing and treating life-threatening injuries like internal bleeding. Similarly, medical doctors training is not in understanding the long-term degenerative effects of whiplash injuries and how they can become debilitating injuries without corrective chiropractic care. Why should they? They’re not chiropractors.

As a result, many car accident victims settle their cases under the false impression that their whiplash injury is either not that bad or that it has been treated adequately because their symptoms improved. Even though, like high blood pressure, whiplash injuries can develop into severe healthcare issues. Instead of sudden and unsuspecting life-threatening progression, whiplash injuries from car accidents typically end up being chronic and debilitating when left untreated or under-treated.

Even worse is that many chiropractors allow these Grade II or Grade III or Grade IV whiplash injuries to go untreated out of fear that the settlement will not cover the costs of their treatment. This is a very common problem with chiropractors.

The Results

In these personal injury cases, chiropractors work on a lien agreeing to treat patients. Once the case is complete they will then receive payment immediately after. The problem is that it is not uncommon for a chiropractor to not receive payment in full directly from the settlement. Primarily when the settlement is distributed between a lawyer, the patient, and all medical cost receiving the third portion between all the different medical offices. Often leaving the chiropractor doing the most work and getting the least. As a result, many chiropractors take the easy way and provide minimal care so that they have minimal risk.

I encourage you to find a chiropractor who understands the full potential of whiplash injuries and is not only willing but capable of treating the full extent of the injuries. At Corrective Chiropractic we’ve seen many of these injuries can progress despite a lack of symptoms.

One Response