A whiplash injury can happen as a result of an incident such as a car accident, a carnival ride, or many other high-speed situations. When this occurs, people can choose to seek traditional medical treatment and therapies, or they can supplement with or try an alternative: chiropractic care.
Causes and Symptoms of Whiplash
Whiplash is a neck strain or sprain. It is an injury that can impact the joints, the spaces between the vertebrae, discs and ligaments, or even the muscles and nerves. It can happen when there is a jerking motion of the head back and forth, and it most often is caused by a car accident. Symptoms are variable, and they can develop immediately or days after the accident. The signs of whiplash can include headaches, shoulder and lower back pain, neck stiffness, dizziness, numb arms or hands, ear ringing or blurred vision, and mental effects (i.e., concentration issues, sleep problems, fatigue, and irritability). Diagnosis can involve CT scans or MRI, since X-rays cannot show soft tissue damage.1
Treating Whiplash Medically
Traditionally, people see a doctor to diagnose whiplash. There are a few home treatments that patients can try, such as applying cold packs or using over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin. Patients are encouraged to limit activities and moving the head and neck.2 Some whiplash injuries are severe and can require surgery. But if the symptoms are just from soft tissue injuries, doctors may prescribe pain medication (such as narcotics, NSAIDs, muscle relaxers, and benzodiazepines to reduce spasms). They may recommend that patients wear a cervical collar around their neck. Some doctors may also offer the patient the options of physical therapy (to increase range of motion), electrical stimulation, or even alternative treatments, such as chiropractic care.3 These alternatives are not just aimed at symptom relief, and they don’t carry the side-effects and risks of medications and surgery.
Chiropractic Treatment of Whiplash
Chiropractors have many options available to them when treating each individual case. Treatment depends on the patient. Therapies can include spinal manipulation, muscle relaxation, muscle stimulation, exercises, and lifestyle/ergonomic adjustments. Stretching is gentle and involves working with the muscles that have tension. For some, a more “vigorous stretch” will need to be employed, where the chiropractor will use “finger pressure techniques” on “trigger points”. Some chiropractors will use “McKenzie exercises” that are simple movements, done in the office at first, but that the patient can use for self-care. To correct problems from a patient’s daily activities, chiropractors will use “stabilization and sensorimotor exercise” to help the patient’s neck become more stable. These exercises are good for whiplash and for routine “micro trauma”.4