Expert care when you need it most
Whiplash can be more than just a pain in the neck.
Whiplash is a common but minor injury most of the time. In some cases though, it can lead to serious long-term consequences if left untreated. For most people, their symptoms will go away within a few days. For others, it can last a few months. Still others end up with chronic symptoms that last for many years or a lifetime.
What is whiplash?
Whiplash is an injury of the neck muscles. It occurs when the neck is forcefully and quickly thrust back and forth. It most often occurs as the result of a rear-end car accident, but is also a common sports injury or as a result of a fall, like slipping on ice. Most people experience neck pain almost immediately, but it can also take a few days before symptoms develop. It may feel sore or tender to move or even to touch the area.
Consequences of leaving whiplash untreated
Just like any injury, the repercussions and lasting effects of whiplash vary from person to person.
Chronic pain, stiffness and loss of motion
Your chronic pain could range anywhere from mild to severe. It might be localised in one spot or the entire neck area. It can even flow down your shoulder into your arm or hand. Untreated whiplash can also lead to stiffness that results in reduced mobility and range of motion.
Chronic headaches and migraines
Often when someone has whiplash, their neck muscles tighten, which can compress the nerves. They can also suffer a neck sprain that can pinch the nerves. Those inflamed nerves can cause chronic headaches. Migraines may flare up immediately after whiplash or in the days to weeks afterwards and can become worse without treatment.
Vertigo is a condition in which a person feels like they are falling or spinning. Vertigo is a common side effect of whiplash. In fact, one study found 25–50% of sufferers had experienced spells of dizziness as a result of suffering whiplash.
Whiplash often causes the uppermost vertebrae in the neck to move out of proper spinal alignment. More specifically, the atlas (C1) and axis (C2) vertebrae form the joint connecting the skull to the spine. Misalignment of these upper two vertebrae inhibits normal communication from the brain to the body’s central nervous system.
How chiropractic care can treat whiplash
First, a chiropractor will evaluate your spine as a whole. After evaluating the affected area and identifying the problem areas and checking for disc injury, ligament injury and muscle spasm, your chiropractor may use a variety of techniques to treat whiplash.
Your chiropractor will perform an adjustment or spinal manipulation with a short, controlled thrust with their hands. Or instead of a thrust, slower mobilising movements are applied. Additionally, for those who experience vertigo, chiropractic care on the upper cervical spine can provide relief.
Additional therapy options
If you have ongoing whiplash pain or need assistance with range-of-motion exercises, physical therapy might be beneficial to you. Your therapist will guide you through exercises that will strengthen your muscles.
There are a series of stretches and movement exercises you can do at home to help restore your range of motion.
Exercises may include:
- Bending your neck toward your chest
- Rotating your neck in both directions
- Tilting your head side to side
- Rolling your shoulders
Soft foam cervical collars are used to hold your neck and head still. A collar can help reduce the pain you feel right after your injury and provide enough relief to help you sleep at night. But don’t wear the collar for too long, because it can decrease muscle strength and interfere with recovery.
Is chiro right for me?
Chiropractic treatments are widely recognized as one of the safest natural drug-free treatments available. Chiropractic care can select from a broad mix of methods such as spinal manipulation therapy, muscle release therapy and many other manual and tool-assisted manipulations. Our chiropractors also have access to percussive instruments, laser therapy, shockwave therapy, dry-needling and much more.
If you’re experiencing whiplash pain, a chiropractor can help to treat your injury. They will be sure to examine the underlying cause of the pain and develop a tailored treatment plan that will help you achieve short- and long-term pain relief.