Following a car accident, slip and fall, or sports collision, many whiplash associated disorder (WAD) patients are advised by friends, family, co-workers, or an attorney to see a doctor of chiropractic. For many WAD patients, this may be their first experience with chiropractic. What can they expect?
During the initial visit, the patient will first complete paperwork to document details about their accident, the onset of symptoms, the initial self-management strategies utilized and their effects, the initial healthcare assessment and its effects, and the current presenting complaints. The patient will also be asked about their medical and family history as this may be important when making a diagnosis. The doctor of chiropractic will review the history and ask the patient questions to clarify some of the answers.
Then the patient will undergo a physical examination that may include observation; palpation; orthopedic tests; neurological tests (including cranial nerve and brain/coordination tests); x-ray (often including stress views); posture and gait assessment; and static and motion palpation of the cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back), lumbar (low back), and pelvis/hips. Not only will these testing procedures help to determine the diagnosis, but they will also give the doctor of chiropractic clarification on which specific therapies to administer to reduce pain and disability in the patient.
Treatment will usually include a multimodal approach that includes manual therapies such as spinal manipulation, mobilization, and soft tissue work, among others. There are a variety of techniques that fall under each of these general categories. For example, chiropractors are trained in several adjusting techniques like diversified, Gonstead, drop-table, instrument, etc. The same goes for soft tissue therapies, which can include trigger-point therapy (TPT) using superficial and/or deep tissue pressure, longitudinal and/or cross fiber friction massage, active release techniques (ART)—which combines deep pressure into a tight muscle with simultaneous stretching of the muscles—multiple types of massage therapy, and more. Treatment may also include physical therapy modalities like electric stim, laser, ultrasound, and more, all depending on the patient’s unique case and the chiropractor’s training and treatment preferences. In some instances, a patient may be referred to an allied healthcare provider or specialist for services that cannot be provided in a chiropractic setting. The goal of treatment is for the patient to achieve maximum possible improvement, and how many visits it will take to get there will vary from patient to patient based on their general health, past history, and the extent of their current injuries.
To achieve a satisfying long-term outcome, the patient may also receive instruction on dietary modifications to aid the healing process, as well as exercises to perform at home to reduce the risk for recurrence.