Whiplash and Chiropractic

by Ruth A. McKinney, DC

Whiplash occurs when the head and neck are suddenly forced backward and then forward, putting the cervical spine through rapid motion and extreme bio-mechanical stresses.  Most cases of whiplash are caused by car accidents with rear-end or front-end collisions. Other causes of whiplash are impact sports such as football or a slip and fall incident where extreme acceleration-deceleration forces might be applied to the neck.  


The most common symptom of whiplash is neck pain, which can feel like mild to extreme aching, burning or tingling.  Reduced movement and stiffness, headache, and upper and mid back pain can occur. There could also be radiating tingling, weakness, or numbness down the shoulder and/or arm.


The severity of the car crash doesn’t always correlate to the severity of the injury.  Vehicles can show very little outward damage, but if the car doesn’t crumple up and absorb the energy of the impact, the resulting whiplash can actually be worse.  Whiplash injuries have been recorded in incidents where the speed at impact was less than 30 miles per hour.


Sometimes people who have been involved in motor vehicle accidents don’t realize regions besides the neck have been affected.  An evaluation of the spine as a whole can reveal other injuries.  In addition to a history and physical examination, your chiropractor may order x-rays to determine the health of joints, discs and bones.  The results of all the tests are used to develop a plan to treat the injuries.


Treatment for whiplash in a chiropractic office often includes several things.  Gentle manipulation of the joints restores proper biomechanical function.  Physiological therapeutics (PT) reduces pain, muscle spasm and inflammation, and speeds the healing process.  Exercise helps to stretch tight muscles and joints, and strengthens tissue that has been weakened by trauma.  


Most whiplash cases involve sprain/strain injuries of muscles, tendons and ligaments.  It actually takes twice as long to heal these soft tissue injuries as it does to recover from a broken bone.  Six to eight weeks for healing is common, and most people recover within three months.  Early diagnosis and treatment is critical to achieve the best outcome.  Long-term effects of untreated whiplash are chronic pain and loss of function, permanent damage to the vertebrae and nervous system, as well as accelerated degeneration of the cervical spine.  Don’t wait, see your chiropractor as soon as possible following a whiplash incident.  


To learn how Chiropractic helps with whiplash call our office at 423-485-8480.

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