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How Does a Chiropractor Treat Whiplash Successfully?

How Does a Chiropractor Treat Whiplash Successfully?

Whiplash, although thought to be a relatively mild injury, can cause pain for months and even years after the initial injury. No matter how mild, it can cause consistent pain that makes everyday life difficult. For many, a wait-and-see approach is not the best option, and chiropractic care can help the healing process, getting you back to normal quickly.

Can a chiropractor help with whiplash?

Yes, most chiropractors treat whiplash successfully by using a combination of chiropractic modalities and exercises for pain relief, recovery, and overall spinal health. It can also help those lesser-known symptoms of whiplash and prevent long-term issues. The extent of the whiplash injury determines chiropractic treatment.

How Serious is Whiplash?

Most whiplash injuries happen as the result of a car accident, contact sports, amusement park rides, or physical abuse. Whiplash is primarily an injury to the neck muscles and ligaments, but can also result in damage to the spinal discs. In general, whiplash isn’t considered a serious or life-threatening injury, but it can still cause long-term complications and severe pain in some instances.

Unfortunately, the biggest risk from whiplash comes from the often delayed onset of symptoms and pain. It can take up to days— and sometimes weeks— to feel the effects of the injury. Older individuals and those who already experience neck pain or issues like arthritis are more likely to have severe and long-term issues after a whiplash injury.

Whiplash Symptoms You Never Knew About

Whiplash Symptoms You Never Knew About

Since whiplash is so common, most people are familiar with the typical symptoms of neck pain, blurry vision, stiffness, and dizziness. They can range from mild to severe, lasting for as little as a few days to weeks or, in rare cases, years. Some symptoms that most people don’t know about include the following:

  • Constant pain in the shoulder and upper back area.
  • Trouble sleeping (even without notable pain).
  • Trouble concentrating or remembering things.
  • Irritability and excitability.
  • Persistent weariness or low-energy.
  • Delayed-onset headaches.

When to Seek Emergency Care for Whiplash

After a whiplash injury, even one that seems mild, you should look out for signs that the injury requires immediate medical attention. If you experience any of the following, seek care immediately.

  • Your arms, shoulders, or legs are numb, tingling, or weak.
  • Your neck pain and stiffness come back after they have gone away.
  • You experience any bowel or bladder problems.

Chiropractic Treatment for Whiplash

Chiropractic treatment varies from case to case. Your doctor of chiropractic will decide on the right treatment options for you by determining the severity of your pain, the location of the injury, any accompanying symptoms, and your medical history. He or she may also want an x-ray taken of the affected area to rule out any other trauma or injury that may have existed before with or without symptoms.

Don’t be surprised when your doctor of chiropractic evaluated your whole spine. One of the main tenets of chiropractic care is that the body is one unit working in unison. Nothing operates on its own without influencing another part of the body in some way. This is one reason why chiropractic care has been successful in treating whiplash injuries; it’s thorough and complete care.

Common Whiplash Treatment Options

Since every injury is different, it’s hard to say exactly which one(s) you may experience when seeking chiropractic care for whiplash. However, here are some of the most common treatments that chiropractors perform for such injuries.

  • Initial Treatment
      • If you visit a chiropractor soon after the injury occurs, your neck may still be inflamed. If so, your chiropractor will likely employ gentle, anti-inflammatory options. These include cold therapy, ultrasound, stretching, electrical therapy, and laser therapy.
  • Spinal Manipulation
      • One of the major treatments in any chiropractic practice, spinal manipulation has been shown to help treat all kinds of spinal issues, including whiplash. There are several different types of spinal manipulation.
        • Specific Manipulation - This is a type of spinal manipulation that involves a gentle but firm thrusting, usually done with the chiropractor’s hands to soft tissue areas. It is designed to stimulate the nervous system to help fix subluxations, which are abnormalities in the movement of the spinal joints and vertebrae.
        • Flexion-Distraction - This is another hands-on spinal manipulation technique that is used to treat slipped or bulging discs. This type of treatment employs a pumping motion on the disc rather than the spine itself.
        • Instrument-Assisted - Usually used for patients with degenerative disc disease, this technique utilizes special instruments in tandem with the chiropractor’s hands to treat whiplash injuries.
  • Chiropractic Massage
      • Sometimes chiropractic massage is used on whiplash injuries to help promote healing, reduce pain, and improve blood flow to the affected area. This can also help relieve stress in the shoulder and neck area, which is common after whiplash.
  • Stretching and Trigger Point Therapy
      • Since the muscles and tendons of the neck can become tight following a whiplash injury, your chiropractor may perform some gentle stretching to the area. This will help relieve pain and ease the tension in the neck. It can also help reduce tension headaches. Trigger point therapy is another way to relieve pain in specific areas with the use of persistent pressure applied by the chiropractor’s fingers.
  • McKenzie Exercises
      • Your chiropractor may employ McKenzie exercises to help reduce disc derangement common to whiplash injuries. The chiropractor will generally show you these simple movements during a session and then have you continue them at home as part of your recovery.
  • Guidance, Tips, and Exercises
    • Finally, your chiropractor will likely give you other tips and guidance to help your whiplash recovery. For instance, you may be tempted to rest and avoid using your neck much for a few days, but this is a mistake. You’ll likely have exercises assigned so your neck can grow stronger and recover quickly. Depending on your posture, the kind of work you do, and other lifestyle factors, your chiropractor may suggest other tips to avoid long-term whiplash-related issues.

The Safety and Success of Chiropractic Care for Whiplash

Whiplash injuries often go away on their own after several weeks. However, there are many instances of chronic whiplash-related issues in the head and neck area. These issues range from pain, limited range of motion, headaches, and other issues that put a strain on everyday life. According to studies, chiropractic care has been most effective in treating these whiplash injuries.

One study showed improvement in 93% of patients that underwent chiropractic treatment for chronic whiplash injuries. Another study found that chiropractic treatment was the only viable option for chronic whiplash injuries.

There has always been talk about the safety of spinal manipulation in chiropractic care, as is expected. However, there is no evidence that spinal manipulation increases the risk of adverse events to any significant degree. One study found that the instances of adverse events during a week after spinal manipulation were in the low to very low range. Other studies have found no significant evidence that spinal manipulation is not a safe manner of treatment for musculoskeletal issues, including whiplash.

If you have experienced a whiplash injury and are having issues, make an appointment with one of our chiropractors today so you can get back to normal quickly, naturally, and safely.

Resources:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0020138396000964
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1355297X.1999.11719898
https://journals.lww.com/spinejournal/Abstract/2007/10010/Safety_of_Chiropractic_Manipulation_of_the.16.aspx

Dr. Brent Wells - Anchorage Chiropractor
About the Author

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

Dr. Brent Wells has been a trusted chiropractor since moving his family from Oregon to Alaska back in 1998 and founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab – B.S. from Univ. of Nevada, Doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College, volunteer for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Foundation, and member of the American Chiropractic Association. As a chiropractor his focus is on family, including his 3 children and wife of 20+ years, his clinics, and ongoing education.

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