I often send patients to WebMD if they want a relatively reliable perspective from “Dr. Google” on an injury or illness as they seek to be proactive in their care (yay!). As I was reviewing some of their information on whiplash, I was very surprised to read that from a Western research perspective, the two most important indicators of recovery from neck pain after a car accident, are pain level on a scale of 1-10 at 3 weeks past injury and a patient’s expectations of recovery.
Did you know that patients who expect to recover fully are 4 times more likely to do so than patients who do not according to over a dozen research studies? Fascinating.
The reality of these findings does not surprise me, however - research confirming them and being published on WebMD does! I often tell my patients that even if they feel fine, they should come in for treatment immediately after any car accident and continue for at least a month because in private practice, I have always found that the worst pain from a car accident hits between the 10-15 day mark. This is often unexpected for the patient, but reliable to me as the practitioner.
Inspired by this article, however, here is how I believe Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can help you whip the whiplash for good and help you, and those you love, ensure that you are in the group of people who fully expect to recover and therefore do!
Whiplash - Why Acupuncture?
Whiplash is a horrible experience. The neck pain, stiffness, headaches, impact on your home and work life - you don’t fully realize all the things that a pain-free neck allows you to do until you have a painful one. When even washing your hair or putting on a shirt hurts, it becomes rather eye opening.
Acupuncture as part of Chinese Medicine is an excellent treatment for whiplash and car accident pain for a whole host of reasons. Here is the short list:
In short - Acupuncture is part of Chinese Medicine which includes Chinese bodywork therapies. Typically, when treating whiplash or any car accident pain or injury, Acupuncture is combined with Cupping, Gua Sha, Tuina and heat therapies such as Moxa or a heat lamp to treat the injury from as many angles as possible towards generating effective and efficient pain reduction and functional improvement. Truly, an arsenal of modalities are available and a competent practitioner will use as many as possible to help you feel better fast and maintain that feeling long term!
Whiplash - How to Whip it for Good!
Okay - Acupuncture is good for pain, whiplash included. How do we use it to its best ability to make sure that the collective “we” are in that upper eschalon that rates their pain low at the 3 week mark and believes they are going to recover fully? It goes right back to the first statement I made at the beginning of this article: GET IN IMMEDIATELY.
There is no such thing as too much Acupuncture. Traditionally in China you would come in for 10 treatments in 10 days and then reassess for any illness or injury. Furthermore, you would continue getting regular “maintenance” treatments for general health and wellness every month, so even if you are perfectly fine Acupuncture is good to help you prevent colds and flus, reduce stress and manage pain. So when you are injured, there is no reason not to come right away - even if you aren’t experiencing a highly increased level of pain immediately after an accident.
If you experience the “whiplash wave” motion, there is a chance whiplash pain could hit anywhere from 10 days to 2 weeks after the accident - be proactive and come in for treatment as soon as possible after a car accident, and continue weekly for at least one month. By getting ahead of any possible pain that might settle into your body post treatment, you will be highly likely to be part of that group that (A) experiences a low level of pain at the 3 week mark and (B) believes they can make a full recovery because hey, if you’ve been coming in for treatment this whole time, by 3 weeks you should be a long way towards recovery already!
As you’ll already be well on your way and be in the hands of an experienced provider, you will be in an excellent position for your whiplash to truly be a thing of the past in a reasonable period of time! I also strongly advocate for all my motor vehicle accident patients to pursue Physical Therapy in conjunction with Acupuncture because they make such an excellent tandem treatment. The Acupuncture helps to reduce the pain of the injury and the pain sometimes associated with working through constricture and injury with a PT, meaning that recovery on all fronts goes that much faster and lasts that much longer!
In a Car Accident? Book in immediately!
So if you or someone you love has been in a car accident, book in immediately! I generally prefer to see my car accident pain patients for 90 minute sessions because it gives us more time to incorporate cupping, gua sha and Tuina massage techniques - and your PIP insurance will cover the treatments 100%, so if time allows it is worthwhile to do 90 minute sessions for at least the first 3 weeks if not 4. If time doesn’t allow, however, that is just fine - all treatment will do its work to help you recover on many levels at much faster rate than going it alone or pursuing Acupuncture-free recovery.
If you have questions or want to know more please don’t hesitate to call or email me any time. You can book online 24/7 and if you’re in an accident, you should book it for the first appointment available of any length you can find. Faster treatment = faster recovery, I guarantee!
Until next time,
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.