If you’ve ever been in a car accident where your vehicle was hit from behind or collided with another car or object, you may have suffered from whiplash. Whiplash happens when the neck jerks back and forth violently, causing muscles and ligaments to overextend, leading to strains or tears.
This overextension can also cause misaligned vertebrae, nerve damage and herniated, bulging or ruptured discs. And if you don’t have your whiplash treated right away, it can lead to chronic problems down the line. While you can see your primary doctor for treatment, you may want to consider talking to your chiropractor before you opt for surgery or drugs. Chiropractic therapy is a natural, non-invasive treatment for whiplash — that can be customized to fit your needs and your experience.
What Are The Symptoms of Whiplash?
The first thing you should know about whiplash is that the experience isn’t the same for everyone. Regardless, here are a few general symptoms you should watch out for if you’ve recently been involved in an accident:
- Pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion in the neck area. Feel the muscles in your neck. Do they feel tight or knotted>
- Pain when moving your head back and forth or side to side.
- Neck soreness.
- Headaches that start at the base of the skull and extend toward the forehead.
Important: If you feel confused, dizzy, nauseous, excessively sleepy or unconscious, you should seek immediate medical care, as you may have a concussion.
How is Whiplash Diagnosed?
Your chiropractor will give a thorough exam, checking your neck and your spine, in case that was impacted as well. He or she will also identify areas of restricted motion, possible disc injury, muscle spasms and ligament injuries. The joints will be another area of focus. The chiropractor may also ask you to walk across the exam room to observe your posture and body mechanics. An X-ray or MRI may also be prescribed to evaluate any conditions that may have existed before the whiplash occurred. These images will help the chiropractor put together a custom treatment plan.
Possible Chiropractic Treatments for Whiplash
As I mentioned before, whiplash is different for everyone and treatments vary widely. That being said, I’m going to outline a few of the most common ones here.
Ice – After the accident happens, you’ll want to reduce pain and swelling as soon as possible. Ice isn’t exactly what I’d call a “chiropractic treatment” but it’s something simple you can do at home that will reduce pain and swelling. You can wrap the ice in a towel or cloth to make things more comfortable. But we recommend icing your neck for around 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours for the first 2-3 days after the accident.
Spinal Manipulation – I know, I know, it’s the chiropractic solution for everything, right? But as you may have heard me say before, everything goes back to the spine — and when it’s aligned, your body can heal itself faster. However, the spinal adjustments (also called chiropractic adjustments) performed for whiplash tend to be slower and gentler. After all, the muscles around the area we are treating have been overextended. They are painful and tender to the touch, so we don’t necessarily want to apply direct force. Hand-held instruments or softer movements may be employed to realign your vertebrae.
Muscle Relaxation – Most of the pain associated with whiplash lies in the neck muscles – which become stiff and knotted. To ease the tension in these muscles, chiropractors use different manual therapies. These therapies include the Graston technique, therapeutic massage and trigger point therapy. The Graston technique is an instrument-assisted therapy where the chiropractor taps an instrument over the affected area. Therapeutic massage is exactly what it sounds like. Your chiropractor massages the muscles of the neck, which gets the blood moving to the affected area, helping it heal more quickly. In trigger point therapy, applies direct pressure to these specific points in the muscle that especially sore or tight to relieve tension.
Exercise Therapy – Chiropractors often have whiplash patients perform specific stretching exercises to reduce disc derangement, correct faulty movement patterns, and help the neck become more stable. The best thing about exercise therapy is that you can bring your therapy home with you, which allows you to experience the benefits of therapy faster.
Electric Stimulation – In this particular therapy, we place nodes on the muscles of the neck and stimulate them with a low electric current — this helps reduce inflammation.
Ultrasound – Like massage, ultrasound increases blood flow in the affected area, which helps decrease muscle spasms, stiffness and pain. It does this by sending sound waves deep into muscle tissues. This generates heat, which, in turn, increases circulation.
Can Whiplash be Prevented?
The short answer is no. It’s not like most of us readily engage in activities that give us whiplash. Whiplash usually happens when something doesn’t go as planned. And while it is most often associated with car accidents, any impact that causes your head to jerk forward or backward suddenly could cause whiplash. The only thing that can lower your chances of getting whiplash is exercise. If your neck is strong and nimble, it is less susceptible to injury.
Whether you were in an accident a few days ago, or many years ago, your chiropractor can help relieve your symptoms and put you on the path to healing. For more information about whiplash, please contact our offices or request an appointment.
About The Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.