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PRP Therapy for Whiplash: What to Expect

Whiplash is a neck injury caused by the abrupt backward-and-forward jerking motion of your head. This often happens as the result of a car accident or in the case of babies, shaken baby syndrome.

At Pinnacle Pain and Spine, interventional pain medicine physician Dr. Matthew Crooks and our team of specialists use every means at our disposal to help you recover from a serious injury like whiplash. 

One treatment we’ve found helpful is platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, a regenerative medicine technique, which triggers your body’s natural healing properties. Here’s what you need to know.

Whiplash damage and symptoms

When your neck is snapped back-and-forth, that motion can damage your spinal joints, the intervertebral discs, ligaments and muscles, and even nerve roots, which become compressed by extruding material or misaligned vertebrae.

Symptoms may appear immediately, or they can be delayed 24 hours or more after the injury occurs. Within the first few days, you experience one or more of the following symptoms:

Diagnosing whiplash

Dr. Crooks starts by asking you about the injury, where it hurts, and what the pain feels like. He may also do a physical exam to look for sore spots and range of motion in your neck and arms.

In most cases, whiplash injuries affect soft tissues such as the discs, muscles, and ligaments, which can’t be seen on standard X-rays. Dr. Crooks may take an X-ray anyway, just to rule out any other type of injury or a degenerative disease like arthritis.

To assess inflammation in or damage to the soft tissues, spinal cord, or other nerves, Dr. Crooks may request CT or MRI scans. If you’ve also suffered a brain injury, he might want to use diffuse tensor imaging (DTI) or a positron emission tomography (PET) scan.

Treating whiplash

Most treatments for whiplash are simple and conservative. Try over-the-counter pain medications or anti-inflammatories to start, but if you’re in extreme pain or are having muscle spasms, Dr. Crooks may prescribe a muscle relaxant and/or prescription painkiller.

Physical therapy plays a critical role in your recovery. We recommend simple exercises to increase the range of motion in your neck, then add to those to build strength and flexibility. 

Practicing good posture and learning muscle relaxation techniques can prevent strains and make it easier to move.

While foam collars to keep the neck stable used to be the norm in whiplash treatment, medical opinion has changed. We now recommend that you wear a cervical collar for no more than three hours at a time and only for the first couple of days. Otherwise, your muscles can atrophy from disuse.

So what’s this about PRP therapy?

Your blood contains white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets, and a watery plasma. PRP therapy relies on the platelets for its therapeutic action. Platelets initiate blood-clotting after a cut and enable faster wound-healing.

We make the PRP solution by taking a vial of blood from your arm, spinning it in a centrifuge to separate out the platelets and then make the platelet-rich solution, which we inject into the injured area. 

The platelets release growth factors that speed up tissue-healing and stimulate new cell production.

Since we use your own blood platelets, your body won’t reject the treatment, preventing allergic reactions, dependency issues, and other side effects caused by traditional pain therapies.

The entire process takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. 

If you’ve suffered a whiplash injury, look beyond mainstream treatments to find much-needed relief. Call us today to learn more about PRP therapy or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Crooks, or book online. Our offices are located in Chandler, Scottsdale, and Fountain Hills, Arizona.

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