When you are involved in a motor vehicle or car accident, whiplash is the term used to describe injury to the neck, back and spine. When a car is rear-ended or hit from behind, the vehicle’s occupant is at the greatest risk of whiplash and other injuries. It only takes 150 milliseconds after impact for the spine to undergo what is called an “S-shaped curve,” from its normal C-shape, as it would normally be, causing the spine to whip back from the S-shape to the C-shape again, hence the name “whiplash.” Afterwards, the joints of the neck and spine suffer symptoms of joint dysfunction, disc herniation, faulty movement patterns, chronic pain, along with cognitive and higher center dysfunction.
Obtaining the appropriate chiropractic treatment for whiplash is entirely dependent on the patient. Like a fingerprint, each injury is unique, making it impossible to generalize about how to treat it.
Chiropractors commonly employ different types of treatment for whiplash including manipulation, muscle relaxation and/or stimulation and various exercises, followed by ergonomic and lifestyle changes.
When a chiropractor uses manipulation to help end the neck, shoulder and back pain associated with whiplash, they manipulate the spine to gently move the involved joint where it is restricted, coaxing it back into a normal movement pattern. The spinal manipulation may involve the application of a short thrust in that direction in a technique called chiropractic adjustment, but often instead of using a thrust, the chiropractor will use a slow, mobilizing movement.
When muscles dysfunction due to whiplash, a chiropractor may use muscle relaxation and/or stimulation which consists of gentle stretches to the muscles with excessive tension or repeated contractions of the inhibited muscle. More vigorous stretching may be required if the muscle is extremely tight, with the chiropractor using trigger points and gentle finger pressure techniques to help relieve the pain.
Chiropractors often use different types of exercises, such as The McKenzie Method, intended to reduce disc derangement. Initially, the exercises are done during an in-office visit, eventually leading to the patient being taught how to self-administer the exercises to help manage their own pain, empowering them as a force in their own treatment, allowing them to regain a sense of normalcy in their lives again.
The chiropractor can also design exercises to help patients who have gone through major physical trauma, like a bad fall or whiplash from a car accident. In the case of micro-traumas from things as minor as being playing sports, performing physical labor at home or work, even from something simple like being jostled in a crowd.
Like the treatment for any type of physical injury, lifestyle changes are going to occur as a result. When a patient suffers from whiplash, treatment suggestions usually include improvements for performing daily activities, taking precautions to make sure there is only minimal strain to the body. The advice a patient receives can address factors in their work activities, home or even recreational activities that can cause continual dysfunctions due to the whiplash and subsequent injury to the body’s normal functions.
A whiplash treatment plan can involve more than just chiropractic care. Often, a chiropractor will refer the patient to, and work in conjunction with, another type of medical specialist if it is deemed appropriate.