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Whiplash (ICBC claims)

An accident was the start of my chiropractic journey


If you, or someone you care about, has experienced a motor vehicle accident and are still suffering with pain or other symptoms, your struggle resonates with Dr. Michael Lax. I’ll tell you why…

Before I even thought about becoming a chiropractor, I was involved in a serious motorcycle accident. It was a head-on collision that threw me through the air some 100 feet, leaving me with a broken pelvis and extensive bodily trauma. I was an elite runner at the time, and the prospect that my running career might be over was devastating.

After the fractures healed, I was still in considerable pain. It was then that my chiropractor got to work, and before long I was starting to feel a lot better. Every unfortunate event has a silver lining, and little did I know at the time that this terrible accident would eventually lead me to become a chiropractor. I wanted to help other people in pain, as my chiropractor had done for me. Chiropractic became my passion.

Our goal is to provide the very best chiropractic care so you can get back to doing the things you love!


First, some facts about car accidents


Motor vehicle accidents invariably result in trauma to the body, the effects of which can last for a lifetime. This trauma is commonly referred to as “whiplash”, and usually involves the neck, and less commonly the back. Whiplash can occur with any sudden traumatic action:  a sudden jerk on an arm, a violent blow to the head, or simply a fall causing a sudden forceful movement of the head or neck.  Most commonly, however, we associate whiplash with automobile accidents.


Put simply, cervical (neck) whiplash injury occurs when the head and neck are involuntarily thrust in one direction, causing recoil of the head and neck in the opposite direction. The result is an acceleration-deceleration injury, where the soft tissues of the neck (primarily muscles, tendons and ligaments) are subjected to rapid acceleration and deceleration forces. And these acceleration-deceleration forces are significant: research shows that being hit from the rear by a vehicle travelling only 8 kph is enough to produce ‘whiplash’ trauma!


Whiplash can result in a wide range of symptoms:  from muscular and ligamentous pain to headaches, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision and a variety of other neurological disturbances.  In mild whiplash injuries symptoms may not be detected for days, weeks or even months after the accident.  Evidence shows, however, there is little or no relationship between force of impact and severity of symptoms.  For example, a minor "fender bender" may result in significant injury and severe symptoms.  Besides speed and force of impact, other factors that commonly determine injury and symptom severity include vehicle design and belting, pain tolerance, pre-existing degenerative spinal conditions, headrest height and head position at moment of impact.


How can Dr. Lax help?


Current evidence shows that the most effective whiplash treatment should involve active manual treatment, including chiropractic adjustments, and rehabilitation.  In fact, there is growing evidence healing may be adversely affected by the use of pain medication, rest and supports that immobilize the neck.

Both medical and chiropractic research reveals that the single most common cause of chronic pain after whiplash, including headache, is not muscle pain, but pain originating from joints in the neck. For this reason, chiropractic spinal adjustments to restore correct joint mobility and function are essential for most whiplash patients.


But there is one more key piece to the treatment puzzle:


What’s crucial to understand is whiplash injuries commonly alter the natural curve (lordosis) in the neck. In fact, research shows that people who have experienced whiplash are six to ten times more likely to develop a flattened, or reversed, curve of the cervical spine than the rest of the population. This abnormal alignment causes spinal and muscular dysfunction, often leading to chronic pain or other symptoms. Incorrect alignment also produces abnormal spinal disc compression, eventually causing early and accelerated spinal decay, in turn leading to even more pain and immobility. Worst of all, a flattened or reversed cervical curve has been shown to adversely affect the nervous system.

Fortunately, if you've been in a car accident that's resulted in a flattened or reversed neck curve, the evidence shows a good chance your curve can be improved. In my office I use a form of chiropractic called 'CBP' (Chiropractic Biophysics) to help restore normal spinal curves. Numerous peer-reviewed studies in both chiropractic and medical journals have demonstrated the effectiveness of CBP in spinal curve correction.


To evaluate and measure the alignment of the spine, I will recommend an X-ray of the area of injury. After a proper chiropractic, orthopedic and neurological examination (including X-rays), I will let you know if I can help, the approximate length of time required and the cost. I will also discuss with you any other options for care that may be appropriate.

If you have an active insurance claim related to your accident, we will work with your lawyer and insurance provider to ensure that you receive excellent and expedient care, and have the best chance of returning to pre-accident status as quickly as possible.

Susan's story: an example


Because pain-killers and many therapies do little more than mask the underlying cause of whiplash pain, to find lasting relief treatment must be directed not at the symptoms, but at their source. Take for example, Susan, who visited my office complaining of severe neck pain that radiated into her shoulder and arm.  She had a history of recurring neck pain and headaches following a car accident several years earlier. 

Susan’s x-rays revealed a 95% loss of the normal cervical curve. I explained that, based on current research, my clinical knowledge and years of experience, it was my opinion her pain was most likely related to this severe spinal malalignment. I showed her how this alignment problem was not allowing the joints in her neck to move normally.  As a result, her neck muscles had become weak and dysfunctional.

Following a short program of relief care (spinal manipulation and soft tissue therapy) to control her symptoms to an acceptable level, Susan elected what is called Spinal Structural Rehabilitation.  The goal of this rehabilitation program would be to first restore her cervical curve to as close to normal as possible, then improve function of the joints and muscles that control movement, strength and stability of her neck.

Susan was re-evaluated several months later.  Her symptoms had reduced to just occasional neck stiffness. More importantly, her cervical curve had improved to a mere 7% loss.  Examination showed that her joint and muscle function had also made large gains. 

The significance of this case is not just the dramatic improvement in Susan's symptoms.  Think for a moment:  what if Susan had been treated only for her pain?  Without correcting the underlying structural problem, what would prevent her symptoms from returning again and again?  Most importantly, what would prevent her underlying spinal condition from continuing to deteriorate over time?  How would this affect her future health and quality of life?

For these reasons chiropractic care in my office focuses as much on spinal correction as symptom relief.  Relief of pain is only the first step towards better health.

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