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January 2024 Chiropractic Newsletter What Chiropractors Want You to Know About Whiplash

The term "whiplash" describes a specific type of motion in which your cervical spine (that is, your neck) is quickly, intensely, repeatedly, and forcefully jolted back and forth. This abrupt and unexpected motion can lead to a spinal misalignment/subluxation or cause damage to nerves and other soft tissue structures like muscles, ligaments, and tendons, leading to pain and other uncomfortable symptoms.

Who can be Impacted By Whiplash?

Whiplash is a relatively common type of injury that affects millions of people each year across the globe. While it can affect people of any age, it is most likely to cause significant or chronic injuries to older adults and women. 

The severity of the injury tends to be greater for older adults (particularly those over the age of 65) because their bodies are generally more susceptible to muscle and bone injuries due to age-related deterioration.

Common Whiplash Causes

Whiplash refers to a single medical concept, but, in reality, a whiplash injury can have a wide range of effects and symptoms. The most common cause of a whiplash injury happens when you are a passenger in a car rear-ended by another moving vehicle. The severity of the injury depends on -

  • The speed of vehicles in the collision
  • The specific direction of the vehicles involved in the crash
  • The age and overall physical condition who has sustained the injury

Whiplash can happen in other ways -

  • A traumatic fall
  • A physical assault
  • Amusement park rides, like roller coasters
  • Sports injuries and more

A whiplash injury has the potential to range from minor to severe; however, even a small or weak level of force can cause a moderate to serious one. And, at its worst, whiplash can break the neck's vertebrae, which may damage your spinal cord and connected nerves.

Common Whiplash Symptoms

Whiplash can be tricky because those who sustain the injury may find certain symptoms need time to manifest – not appearing until days or weeks after the harmful event.

So, even if you have no symptoms after the injury, it is essential NOT to make an erroneous assumption that you have no injuries. The prudent decision would be to seek a medical or chiropractic evaluation after a potential whiplash injury because by not doing so, you may open the possibility of a chronic condition that requires a lifetime of ongoing care.

Whiplash symptoms depend on how severely or intensely your neck is hyperextended and/or compressed. The greater the extension or compression, the greater the injury. The most common symptoms of whiplash include-

  • Neck stiffness/pain when moving
  • Neck or upper back tenderness
  • Tingling sensations traveling down an arm
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Headaches/ Dizziness/Vertigo
  • A reduced range of motion
  • Unexplained tiredness or unusual sleeping patterns
  • An inability to concentrate/focus
  • Blurred vision

Chiropractic Treatment Options for Whiplash

Whiplash is a treatable condition, but there's no direct cure. Instead, chiropractic treatment objectives seek to support healing and reduce related symptoms. These include one or a combination of the following -

  • Chiropractic Adjustments
  • Electrical Stimulation
  • Spinal Decompression
  • Physiotherapy
  • Cold/Hot Therapies
  • Massage Therapies
  • Therapeutic Exercises
  • Ultrasound Therapy, and more

The length of time required to recover from a whiplash injury depends on the selected treatment options, the individual's health history, and other specific aspects of the situation.

Most people who sustain minor whiplash injuries will find they can recover within days or a few weeks. However, as the whiplash injury becomes more severe or intense, it may take months to recover or fully heal from the injury.

Note that whiplash recovery will likely be the longest when there are complications that may include ongoing pain and spinal inflammation. A chiropractor can provide further information regarding the timeline for your expected recovery.

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