Chiropractic Care for Whiplash

Whiplash injuries are primarily caused by auto accidents but sports and other traumas can also cause whiplash. It is important to seek chiropractic care immediately if you think you may have suffered a whiplash injury to prevent damage to the spine and soft tissues.

Can you tell us exactly what whiplash is and what body parts are most often affected?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Whiplash is essentially a neck injury due to forceful, often rapid, back and forth movement of the neck. It most often occurs during trauma such as auto accidents, especially when we’ve been rear-ended. It can also be caused from high impact injuries such as sports injuries. Essentially all the soft tissue so muscles, ligaments, and tendons, even the discs and the nerve roots can be damaged. It really isn’t very pleasant.

What are the most common ways people get whiplash?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Auto accidents are the number one cause, however contact sports such as football, mixed martial arts can cause the trauma also. Unfortunately, in our office we see some cases of physical abuse and/or assault.

What are the most common symptoms that people suffering from whiplash experience and how long can it take for these symptoms to appear?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Common symptoms are usually pain and stiffness within the neck and the shoulders, reduced and painful range of motion, headaches. They are more on the mild side.  However, the more serious symptoms you can experience are blurred vision, memory loss, sleep disturbances. They are in the more severe cases. Recovery obviously depends upon the severity of the trauma so it is a case by case basis but more mild cases are anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks and unfortunately more severe cases can be up to 6 months or longer. Seeking immediate medical attention post trauma regardless of its severity is a must and by doing so you allow for maximum medical improvement.

How can chiropractic care help treat whiplash?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Chiropractic care can be very effective when treating whiplash injuries. Essentially, through a really thorough examination and obtaining some x-rays, it allows the patient to receive a thorough diagnosis and it allows the doctor to assess both the structural and functional integrity of the spine. By doing so it allows the doctor to give a specific diagnosis or recommend a specific treatment plan post evaluation.

Also, chiropractors can essentially work the spine back into alignment. Obviously after the trauma the spine does shift out of alignment. Also, when it is out of alignment, soft tissue, again muscles, ligaments, tendons become damaged and chiropractors can stabilize and eventually strengthen that soft tissue. By doing all of those things it allows the spine to work back into alignment, we take stress and tension off the damaged joint, tissue, nerve. This allows for fast and effective healing.

Why is it really important to seek chiropractic care as soon as you think you have whiplash?

Dr. Luke Stringer: It is of the utmost importance because it allows the doctor to begin the healing process right away. Once the spine or the tissue is damaged it is important to reduce that inflammation and improve range of motion as quickly as possible. Once this is achieved then the doctor can set about stabilizing and strengthening the tissue and the spine and once that’s achieved obviously we can improve and recover. If we procrastinate and we allow the spine and the tissue to stay out of alignment and damaged, essentially it creates kind of a cascade effect within the body which can lead to other health complications.

For example, healthy tissue will have to work harder for the tissue that is damaged. This creates kind of that weight loading issue which can create a lot of repetitive stress injuries specifically for the shoulder or the hip and the low back. Also, when the joints are out of alignment it adds a poor loading to the joint and when we’re loading the joints poorly, essentially with our weight bearing issue that can lead to things like nerve impingement, increase in the pain, joint exercise, it can even lead to numbness and tingling into the arms, hands and fingers. If we leave it for too long over time we start seeing irreversible changes such as disc degeneration and joint degeneration.

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