How can Chiropractic help with Whiplash?

We’ve all  likely heard of whiplash before.  However, if you’ve never actually experienced this type of an injury, you can never truly appreciate the pain and length of rehabilitation that can often be related to it. It is a nasty injury that usually takes a long time to get over.  So what is whiplash? What are the best exercises after you have suffered a whiplash injury and what can your Chiropractic physician do to help speed the recovery process? 

Most commonly, whiplash is an injury that takes place in a car accident, however I have seen this type of an injury take place in other situations such as being hit from behind on the ski slopes or taking a hard fall to the ground. The impact results in a rapid and extreme forward-then-backward movement of the head. If the individual is unaware of the impending impact, the blow puts an extreme force of impact into the joints of the head and neck which results in extreme joint pain, inflammation, and sometimes in extreme cases, fractures.   If the person sees the impact coming they will typically “brace” for the collision, causing muscle strain and/or muscle tearing.  Though possibly less-serious because of the lack of bony involvement, the muscle pain is nonetheless very painful.

One interesting characteristic of whiplash pain is its manifestation. It is common for patients to walk away from their car accident not feeling a whole lot of pain.  While your adrenaline is flowing the trauma to the neck joints and muscles often doesn’t manifest itself until a few days later. It is very common for my patients to be in A LOT of pain 1-3 days or weeks to a month or 2 after the incident, and that pain can last for months to years.

Whiplash is a very common ailment we treat here at the Vector Spine and Sport.  After the necessary steps have been taken, and the neck has been cleared by x-ray it is important to get started in Chiropractic care and when tolerated Physical Therapy right away.  Early movement to the spine, with supervision and guidance by your Health care team will ensure the quickest path to recovery.  Your treatment at Vector Spine and Sport for whiplash pain will generally consist of three major areas of focus:

●    Warm Up – A very important step to prepare the head and neck for increased movement using manual therapy. 
●    Manual Therapy – Utilize a combination of soft tissue massage and gentle joint mobilization to help improve neck motion.  After a whiplash injury, lack of neck movement is the main issue, and this needs to be addressed first.  This is probably the most important part of your treatment initially for whiplash.  Whiplash pain, though initially focused in the neck area, often extends into the upper back muscles and sometimes even into the lower back.  Each of those painful areas needs addressed with a hands-on approach by your Health care professional.
●    Specific Exercise – One of the most important parts of treating whiplash injury is a customized, focused home exercise program. Your muscles and joints are designed to move; after a whiplash injury it’s important to remind them of that fact. Initially the focus should be on stretching and motion and then with time progressing towards postural strengthening as pain decreases.

So what are some of the best exercises for whiplash? Click on the image below to see some of our most-recommended exercises for whiplash injury. Please note that these are shared for educational purposes only (see disclaimer below); in order to achieve maximum benefit you should consult your healthcare professional for a unique, custom plan of care specific to your individual needs.

Click on the image below to open the PDF in a new window

Whiplash can be a very frustrating ailment to deal with.  It requires patience, diligence, and consistency to see significant results. Rehabilitation following these accidents comes with ups and downs, good days and bad, but there is certainly light at the end of the tunnel. Chiropractic, Acupuncture, Massage and PT can help you get there in the quickest, safest way possible.  So give the Vector Spine and Sport a call or schedule today, and let us help you get on the road to recovery.

Importance of seeing a Chiropractor after a car accident.

Time is essential after being in an auto-accident. According to the Journal of Orthopedic Medicine, “Chiropractic is the only proven effective treatment in Chronic [whiplash] cases”(1). Early intervention drastically increases the effectiveness and outcomes when it comes to car accidents. Now am I saying that Chiropractic care is the best thing for everyone after a car accident, No I am not, I am saying that it is beneficial to see a musculo-skeletal specialist. These could be Chiropractors, Physical therapists, Massage therapists, Orthopedic surgeons etc. Unfortunately for most people they only go to the urgent care or primary care physicians, who prescribe some muscle relaxers and pain killers. This gets you part way because in the early stages of injury after a car accident you are in the acute inflammatory phase, which is between 1-7 days after injury. This phase the pain goal is to minimize inflammation and pain, effective non-medication modalities are: gentle manipulation, soft tissue therapy, laser therapy, therapeutic taping to name a few. After phase 1 if the Sub acute phase anywhere from day 3 to around 3 weeks after the injury. This phase is categorized by inflammation reduction and feeling like you can move a little bit better than before. Phase 3 is the remodeling phase which takes place between 1-6 weeks typically, This is an important time to be preparing the soft tissues of the body to be ready to work again through manipulation, massage, and therapeutic exercises if tolerated. Phase 4 the functional phase is between 2 weeks and 6 months, the goal here is to be getting back to normal activities without re-injury. This is where physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, soft tissue therapy and rehabilitation exercises are needed to get you to have the best outcomes possible after these types of injury.

Most people after a car accident either go to an emergency room or insta-care where they are prescribed Some muscle relaxers and pain killers, and told to take it easy. The more serious cases are referred to either a Chiropractor or a Physical therapist. Who is going to be the best person to see after a car accident? Chiropractor or Physical therapist (PT)? The answer is both in most cases in my experience. The Chiropractor is going to prepare your body to do the activities that the PT prescribes. How does the Chiropractor get your body ready for physical activity? Through a combination of modalities such as chiropractic adjustments/manipulation, muscle work, massage therapy, inferential current/electrical stimulation, laser therapy, ultrasound and more. The PT is going to help by giving exercises to strengthen the areas that were injured and need strengthening to create more stability after the accident.

What signs that say you need to go to see a professional?

  • Neck pain or soreness
  • Upper back pain or soreness
  • Low back pain or soreness
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
  • Head ache
  • Sensitivity to light or sounds
  • lingering pains after a car accident

This is just a short list of signs that there is some tissue damage and that you should see a specialist.

I have seen first hand how much Chiropractic and Physical therapy working together drastically improve the lives of those people after an accident.

1. S Khan, J Cook, M Gargan & G Bannister (1999) A Symptomatic Classification of Whiplash Injury and the Implications for Treatment, Journal of Orthopaedic Medicine, 21:1, 22-25, DOI: 10.1080/1355297X.1999.11719898

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