Often called the invisible injury, whiplash is a neck injury commonly associated with rear-end car accidents. However, it can occur from any activity that causes your head to be suddenly jolted backward and forward (or forward then backward) in a whip-like movement, or if your head is suddenly forcibly rotated.
Whiplash may be an invisible injury as there is no visible outside damage and pain associated with whiplash often occurs hours or even days after injury, but that’s not to say it isn’t serious. The symptoms associated with whiplash can linger for months or years and mild cases can result in debilitating discomfort that impacts daily life.
If you or a loved one are suffering from whiplash, know that you are not alone in your struggle. In fact, according to the Spine Research Institute of San Diego, about 3 million Americans sustain whiplash injuries each year with 1.5 million suffering from chronic pain.
Thankfully, there are many natural chiropractic techniques that have restored patients’ quality of life by treating the cause behind whiplash symptoms, reducing chronic pain, and restoring mobility.
What is whiplash?
Whiplash is medically known as cervical acceleration-deceleration (CAD) syndrome. The US National Library of Medicine’s National Institutes of Health defines whiplash as “an acceleration–deceleration mechanism of energy transfer to the neck” that “may result in bony or soft-tissue injuries.”
In other words, whiplash injuries are neck muscle and ligament strains caused by the violent, abrupt motions you may experience in situations like a car crash or sports injury. Damage to vertebral discs, the spine, or the spinal cord can also occur from a severe whiplash accident.
You may be surprised to learn that most car crash whiplash injuries occur at crash speeds below 12 miles per hour1. This is due to the fact that our vehicles are designed to absorb impact at that speed, but our bodies are not. The sudden jolting movement, even at minimal speeds, can often tear tendons and neck muscles, resulting in inflammation, stiffness, and pain.
Women are also more susceptible to sustaining whiplash injuries than men due to women having different distributions and smaller amounts of cartilage in the facet joints located within the neck. Less cartilage in the facet joints means less protection from sudden movements causing the cervical spine of a female to be at greater risk for injury.2
Symptoms of whiplash may include:
The most common symptom of whiplash is neck pain, which can range anywhere from mild to excruciating. However, often symptoms do not appear until several hours or even days after the injury has occurred.
- Pain and stiffness in the neck
- Difficulty turning or bending the neck
- Pain or stiffness in the shoulders radiating down the arms
- Pain and stiffness in the upper and lower back
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Numbness and tingling
- Pain in the jaw or face
- Difficulty swallowing
Not everyone experiences symptoms of whiplash in the same way. In some cases, victims of whiplash may experience cognitive or psychological conditions, such as:
- Memory loss
- Impaired concentration
- Nervousness or irritability
- Sleep disturbances
Your neck is the information highway to the brain for all bodily systems. Therefore, it is essential to seek a proper diagnosis and address any symptoms of whiplash after sustaining a neck injury to prevent long-term damage or chronic conditions.
Can you prevent whiplash?
Whiplash cannot be fully prevented due to the nature and severity level of the initial injury-causing accident. However, you can help prevent greater injury and reduce your risk by taking precautions while in a vehicle or participating in physical activities.
Whiplash can be avoided or reduced with proper headrest positioning in your vehicle. The top of the headrest should be level to or higher than the ears, and close to the head. Avoid reclining your seat back while in a vehicle as this creates a large amount of space between the headrest and your head allowing for greater movement should an accident occur.
Ensure your seatbelt is in its proper position every time you ride in a vehicle. The ideal placement for the shoulder belt is to have it cross your body at your collarbone. Tighten the belt at the hips and make sure the lap portion of the belt is low on your hips and snug to hold your body against the seat back in the event of an accident.
The best way to prevent whiplash injury from physical activities such as sports is to use appropriate protective gear, especially during contact sports. The neck absorbs shock from the head to the body, and vice versa, and protective gear is designed to reduce the amount of force transferred to your head during a sudden movement.
How can chiropractic care help me?
Chiropractors are trained in all aspects of the human body structure and central nervous system from bones and muscles to nerve and disc health. This allows them to get to the root cause of whiplash and treat the body as a whole to help prevent chronic pain and restore normal neck movement, function, and strength.
Gentle spinal, neck and whole-body adjustments performed by a licensed chiropractor at Spine Stop Chiropractic allow the body's systems to function correctly by removing blockages, pressure, and inflammation. This allows your body to heal naturally from whiplash injuries.
Studies show that chiropractic care improves cervical range of motion (cROM) and pain in the management of Whiplash-Associated Disorders (WAD)3, allowing you to return to your normal activities in less time than without treatment.
Chiropractic Benefits for Whiplash Include:
- Natural, effective relief
- Strengthens your body’s main support structures
- Helps prevent chronic pain from developing
- Restores neck movement, mobility, and strength
- Proactive care to support neck health, blood flow, and overall body wellness
- Education and lifestyle recommendations to enhance healing, balance, strength, and more
If you or a loved one are suffering from whiplash, our doctors here at Spine Stop Chiropractic can help restore your quality of life and get you back to the activities you love.
Contact us today for a consultation with one of our doctors and discover the natural way to relieve and prevent whiplash symptoms.
We understand that not everyone is familiar with chiropractic care, so all new patients receive a consultation, examination and if necessary, an x-ray. Then our doctors will review your condition and walk you through an easy-to-follow treatment plan that’s unique to you.
There’s no pressure or commitment to go through treatment. Our friendly staff just wants to assess if you could benefit from personalized chiropractic care.
- Castro WH, Schilgen M, Meyer S, Weber M, Peuker C, Wörtler K. Do “whiplash injuries” occur in low-speed rear impacts? Eur Spine J. 1997;6(6):366-75. PubMed PMID: 9455663; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3467723
- Stemper, B. D., Yoganandan, N., & Pintar, F. A. (2003). Gender dependent cervical spine segmental kinematics during whiplash. Journal of Biomechanics, 36(9), 1281–1289. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0021-9290(03)00159-3
- Shaw L, Descarreaux M, Bryans R, Duranleau M, Marcoux H, Potter B, Ruegg R, Watkin R, White E. A systematic review of chiropractic management of adults with Whiplash-Associated Disorders: recommendations for advancing evidence-based practice and research. Work. 2010;35(3):369-94. doi: 10.3233/WOR-2010-0996. PMID: 20364057.
The information on this page is intended for informational purposes only. We put this page together to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of the benefits of chiropractic care. This page is not meant to provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.