Chiropractic Care for Whiplash: Could It Help Your Neck Pain?
Neck pain and stiffness after a motor vehicle accident or fall could be signs of whiplash, an injury that affects the soft tissues in the neck. Without prompt treatment, symptoms could last weeks, months, or even years. Fortunately, your chiropractor offers several treatments designed to improve whiplash pain.
What Causes Whiplash?
Whiplash happens during a motor vehicle accident when your head jerks back and forth. Any act that causes your head to "whip" back and forth violently can result in whiplash. You could develop whiplash if you ride a roller coaster, fall when skiing, or if you are tackled or fall when playing sports.
As your head moves back and forth, several things happen to your neck. First, muscles in your neck become strained as they're pushed past their limits. The sudden movements may also change the alignment of the vertebrae in your neck and back, in addition to straining ligaments that connect bones together and tendons that attach muscles to bones.
Whiplash is a common injury. According to an analysis of crash and hospital data in Accident Analysis and Prevention in 2020, more than 1.2 million people experience whiplash every year.
What Are the Symptoms of Whiplash?
Whiplash symptoms don't always start immediately, but may start hours or days after your injury. Symptoms may include:
- Neck Pain
- Shoulder and Upper Back Pain
- Stiff Neck
- Reduced Range of Motion in Your Neck
- Numbness or Tingling That Travels to the Shoulder, Arm or Hand
- Blurred Vision
- Ringing in the Ears
- Abnormal Fatigue
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Trouble Sleeping
Chiropractic Treatments Ease Whiplash Symptoms
Your chiropractor offers natural, drug-free methods that soothe sore tissues and realign the vertebrae in your neck. Therapies that might be included in your whiplash treatment plan include:
- Soft Tissue Mobilization. Your muscles tighten in an attempt to protect your joints, vertebrae, ligaments, and tendons when an injury happens. Unfortunately, the muscles don't always relax on their own, which can lead to pain and stiffness. During soft tissue mobilization, your chiropractor uses his or her hands to gently stretch and loosen the muscles and soft tissues. As the treatment progresses, your doctor varies the pressure and the length of the strokes depending on the resistance encountered. In addition to relieving muscle tension and improving range of motion, soft tissue mobilization reduces muscle spasms and breaks up scar tissue. Although scar tissue is essential for injury repair, it may cause or worsen pain and stiffness.
- Spinal Manipulation. Spinal manipulation repositions misaligned vertebrae in your neck and back. In addition to causing neck pain, subluxations pull on muscles and soft tissues, increasing muscle tension and soreness. Correcting the misalignment loosens soft tissues and decreases painful pressure on nerves. Your chiropractor uses his or her hands or an activator to quickly realign the vertebrae during spinal manipulation. The treatment decreases pain, improves range of motion, and may reduce the production of proteins involved in inflammation.
- Massage. Massage may also be part of your treatment plan. The therapy improves circulation to your neck and decreases pain by relaxing tight tissues. As your chiropractor massages painful tissues, your body increases its production of endorphins, serotonin, and oxytocin.
- Other Therapies. Ultrasound therapy may be used to decrease inflammation and ease pain and stiffness. The Graston Technique, a type of instrument-assisted therapy, breaks apart scar tissue and loosens tight muscles and soft tissues. If your pain is due to a bulging spinal disc, your chiropractor may use flexion-distraction to reduce pressure on your nerves.
Are you struggling with whiplash pain? Chiropractic care could help you get back to normal. Call our office to schedule your appointment.
SpineUniverse: Best Practice Guidelines for Chiropractic Care of Neck Pain and Whiplash Disorders, 2/6/20
SPINE-Health: Whiplash Symptoms and Associated Disorders, 4/18/2017
Science Direct: Accident Analysis & Prevention: Estimating the Number of Crash-Related Cervical Spine Injuries in the United States; an Analysis and Comparison of National Crash and Hospital Date, 7/2020
Mayo Clinic: Whiplash, 2/11/2022