Chiropractic Care for Whiplash
Most Americans have heard the term “whiplash,” but it’s important to know the details about this condition, how it occurs, and how to treat it. Two of the most common causes of whiplash are car accidents and sports-related injuries.
It’s important to know the effects whiplash could have on your body and how a chiropractic physician can help.
A whiplash injury occurs when a force acts on the body, causing the neck to snap violently in a direction. For example:
- A strong hit to the side of the head or body during a contact sport can cause the neck to bend violently in the opposite direction, causing a whiplash injury.
- In a front-end car accident, a passenger will still be moving forward as the car crashes to a halt, violently throwing the head forward and back from the momentum.
If the injury occurred as part of the motor vehicle collision, the severity of the accident often does not indicate the severity of the injury.
Minor collisions with minimal or no damage to the car can cause severe injury whereas damage to the crumple zones in a car can shield the driver from injury.
The symptoms of whiplash can vary based on the force of the injury-causing incident, but most people who experience whiplash report symptoms including:
- Neck stiffness and difficulty moving the neck.
- Pain in the neck, upper back, shoulders and/or arms.
- Headaches in the front or back of the head.
- Tingling, numbness or weakness in the arms.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Poor concentration.
- Problems with memory.
While these symptoms may self-repair to a degree with time and rest, severe symptoms can be incredibly painful and limit functionality. Difficulty moving the head or neck due to a whiplash injury can interfere with work, driving, and everyday tasks.
Nerve damage is also possible, so it’s vital to seek medical treatment for a whiplash injury. It is also extremely common for injuries that cause whiplash to cause a concussion as well.
Whiplash Diagnosis and Treatment
A diagnosis of whiplash requires a complete physical exam and taking the patient’s medical history.
Imaging tests such as MRIs and X-rays can be useful to rule out even worse damage, such as fractures or neurological problems.
However, chiropractors commonly employ different
chiropractic treatments for whiplash, often including:
- Spinal manipulation, the primary treatment for whiplash, involves gently moving the joint in the direction in which it is restricted.
- Gentle stretches and appropriate exercises may be used to relieve the muscular tension associated with whiplash.
- Sometimes specialized treatment such as the Graston Technique will be used. This form of myofascial release can be especially effective in relieving muscular tension. The chiropractor may also refer the patient to a massage therapist for further treatment.
FAQs – Chiropractic for Whiplash
Can whiplash cause permanent damage?
Yes, it is possible, depending on the severity of the initial injury. Extreme pain immediately after the collision could be a symptom of a severe problem and it would be wise to seek medical attention immediately at an emergency room. Nerve damage and fractures can occur with severe whiplash injuries.
Some people who experience whiplash develop secondary symptoms later, such as limited range of motion, periodic tingling, or frequent headaches. It is extremely important to be cared for by a qualified medical professional, like a chiropractic physician, soon after injury as it is more likely for symptoms to become permanent if you wait for care.
And when you do get care, remember that attending your appointments with the recommended frequency can help you to continue your progress, prevent a relapse and help avoid problems in the future.
How long do whiplash symptoms last?
Symptoms can last a few weeks or several years depending on the severity of the injury. Some other things that negatively affect how long a person has symptoms can be waiting more than a month to get care and previous injuries or problems in the affected area. Regardless of how long you have had symptoms, chiropractic care can help relieve these symptoms and encourage your overall health.
Can chiropractic heal whiplash?
While there is no cure, chiropractic care can help alleviate the symptoms of a whiplash injury and restore healthy spinal movement. After a complete history and physical examination, a chiropractic physician will use chiropractic adjustments, soft tissue techniques, and therapeutic exercises to increase the range of motion (ROM) and strength.
Massage therapy may be prescribed as well. The primary goal is to restore function to the area to allow victims to live their lives. Long-term problems can be avoided if the victim of whiplash is treated early enough to reduce inflammation and minimize the formation of scar tissue.
How long does chiropractic care for whiplash take?
Chiropractic care is not a one-and-done treatment. Your treatment plan will depend on the severity of your whiplash injury. Occasionally, a patient only requires a few visits until symptoms decrease, but that does not take into account the rehabilitation phase that is needed to help prevent further problems that may be related to the injury. People often start feeling better within a few visits, but the pain and/or other dysfunctions may last for several weeks or even a few months.