Whiplash

Overview

Whiplash is the term used to describe a traumatic neck injury caused by an abrupt jolt, which throws the head back and sideways. This mechanism of injury causes damage to the soft tissues of the neck and, in severe cases, fracture of vertebral segments. Most often, whiplash is caused by a rear end automobile collision at speeds as little as 15 mph, however it can occur during other events, such as banging your head or falling.  Whiplash can be a very stressful event and can have serious short-term and long-term consequences depending on the severity of the trauma.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Symptoms of whiplash that may occur soon after the injury include neck pain, referred pain to the upper back and shoulders, headaches, sensory changes in the arms or legs, such as pins and needles or numbness.  Some symptoms, however, may not appear until days after an injury, such as the development of TMJ dysfunction or low back pain. Besides these symptoms, and the mechanism of injury, a diagnosis of whiplash is confirmed after a complete head and neck examination, and often times x-rays to rule out fractures.

Medical Treatment

The medical treatment of whiplash almost always includes the use of a soft cervical collar at least until the pain subsides. However evidence has shown that soft collars can be less effective at promoting recovery from whiplash than other treatments, such as active rehabilitation and postural modifications. In fact, one study found that patients who participated in active therapy shortly after their whiplash injury had significantly less pain within four weeks when compared to patients using a cervical collar. Medical treatment for whiplash may also include the use of prescription pain and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
How We Can Help

Many patients experiencing symptoms of whiplash have found tremendous immediate relief with chiropractic care.

However, whiplash is often times inadequately treated due to poor patient compliance or insurance limitations to treatment, leaving the injury to progress into a chronic pain case. In fact, over 15 million people in the U.S. suffer from "late whiplash syndrome" largely because of insufficient treatment. For example, neck adjustments can offer some relief to patients with whiplash, but often times the pain returns with neck adjustments alone. This is why, when dealing with cases of whiplash, we address the entire spine and even the shoulders if necessary. We also incorporate rehabilitative exercises to minimize the chance of future neck problems and proper nutrition to promote the healing process.