The term whiplash (neck pain from an acceleration/deceleration injury) in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can result in pain and discomfort or weakness in one or both sides of the upper back, neck and head. The quality of pain could be stabbing, burning, and/or spasm, and is often associated with stiffness and numbness.
Whiplash is caused by a physical trauma which usually causes injury to the soft tissue of the neck and upper back, and often, even to the mid back and lower back. Traumatic injury can lead to acute stagnation of Qi (energy) and blood in the local channels the above areas. The nature of pain is usually sharp, stabbing and fixed. It is also often aggravated with activity and movement and relieved is often relieved by acupuncture techniques that free circulation of the Qi and blood in the body.
Acupuncture has developed an excellent reputation as a treatment for relieving pain.
Acupuncture can help Whiplash in the following ways:
- relieves pain completely, or significantly (with goal to give the patient as much relief as possible)
- improves the patient’s ability to deal with their whiplash injury
- helps regulate an individuals emotions i.e. depression, anxiety, fear, worry and sadness are common emotions someone may feel after a whiplash injury
- increases an individual’s energy levels
- helps an individual deal with their activities of daily living (ADL’s), by increasing the ability to perform tasks that have become difficult since the injury
- enhances the patient’s quality of life
- reduces reliance on prescription medication and prevents associated side effects.
The basic premise about pain in Chinese Medicine is: “If there is free flow, there is no pain; however, if there is a disruption in the free flow of Qi and blood circulation, then pain occurs. The circulation of Qi and blood in the body should be constant, just like the coming and going of the ocean’s tide.
For whiplash occurring during a car accident, the ten most reported symptoms with their estimated prevalence, are: neck pain (97%), headache (97%), TMJ (82%), shoulder pain (65%), anxiety (55%), back pain (42%), depression (41%), visual symptoms (blurred vision) (35%), and dizziness (23%)(1). Clinical investigation often reveals cervical strain, muscle tears, and/or rupture of ligaments, cervical disc herniation, cervical spine fracture and cervical facet-joint injury. Acupuncture has been an effective treatment in alleviating the symptoms mentioned above and helping to accelerate the healing process of these conditions.
One study by Rabl V, et al, focused on the effect of acupuncture on 153 patients suffering from pain, edematous conditions, and impaired movement following traumas sustained in accidents. Following a standardized acupuncture program, there was a significant improvement in all nine groups within the total sample of patients.(2)
Even auricular (ear) acupuncture was found to be effective at alleviating symptoms post whiplash. This was demonstrated in a study of 30 whiplash patients by Hertz H, et al.(3)
TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicicine)Treatment for Whiplash Injuries
When providing acupuncture treatment for whiplash, regarding the selection of specific acupuncture points to be used, one must consider several factors:
- the specific meridian system affected, which is usually the musculo-tendino meridian system
- pattern differentiation
- local symptoms reported and observed
- the effectiveness of acupuncture pointe combinations including both distal and local points
- the combination of acupuncture points in body meridians and auricular acupuncture points
- the combination of acupuncture with traditional electrical modalities, chiropractic adjustment and exercise (stretching & rehab).
Whiplash Stages and Acupuncture
Acute Stage there are two types of TCM problems, Qi Stagnation and Blood Stasis.
(1) Qi Stagnation
Symptoms include: neck (unilateral or bilateral), shoulder and upper back pain, soreness and heaviness in the upper extremities (which is usually worse with cold and better with heat), temporal and occipital pain, moving or wandering pain, neck muscle tension, limited neck range of motion, fluctuating emotions, headaches, insomnia, feelings of by anxiety and sometimes even panic.
(2) Blood Stasis
Symptoms include: stabbing and burning pain in the neck and upper extremity, pain in a fixed location, which is increased at night and intensified with pressure, numbness or a tingling sensation in the fingers, headache and vertigo (dizziness).
Symptoms can include: history of whiplash injury, neck stiffness accompanied by a pulling sensation, upper extremity heaviness, numbness in the finger tips, dizziness and nausea, and neck pain aggravated by humidity and changes in barometric pressure. Soreness and weakness in the neck, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), vertigo (dizziness), blurred vision, hot flashes, a dry throat, insomnia, dream-disturbed sleeping, irritability, poor sitting and standing tolerance, soreness in the waist and in the knee joints, finger numbness and muscle spasms, along with tightness in the upper and lower extremities.
Acupuncture Treatment of Local Symptoms
(1) Neck pain: Depending on the specific location of pain, there a variety of acupuncture points that can be used.
(2) Shoulder pain
(4) Temporal mandibular joint (TMJ): If a patient complains of discomfort or pain around thetemporomandibular joint or jaw.
(5) Dizziness (Vertigo)
(6) Back pain (lower back or upper back)
If you have been in a recent auto accident and think that you might have been injured or still have questions, then call your Maitland Chiropractor today 407-629-5333. Dr. Bolick is board certified in Acupuncture. Don’t delay, the longer you wait the more difficult your injuries can be to treat. Call 407-629-5333 today. We offer many options from mainstream chiropractic & rehab to both needle and non-needle acupuncture treatment options.
- 1. InjuryResources.com
- 2. Rabl V, et al, he effect of Standardized Acupuncture Program in the Aftercare of Accident Patients, Unfallchirugie, 1983, 9(6):308
- 3. Hertz H, et al, Treatment of Whiplash Injuries of the Cervical Spine with Acupuncture, Aktuelle Traumatol 1983, 13(4):151
- 4. Fattori B, et al, Acupuncture Treatment of Whiplash Injury, Int Tinnitus, 2004:10 (2), p.156-160