What is a whiplash injury?
Whiplash is a neck injury that occurs when a quick and forceful movement whips your head forwards or backwards, causing damage to supporting structures such as neck muscles, ligaments, and spinal joints. Examples of instances where whiplash could occur includes a car accident, tackling during sports, high speed rollercoasters, or falls. Whiplash is generally self-diagnosable, with the most common signs and symptoms being:
- Neck, shoulder or upper back pain.
- Decreased range of motion of the neck.
- Pain with head and neck movement.
In more severe cases, one may also experience:
- Numbness and tingling through the arms.
- Ringing in the ears.
What are the short term and long term consequences of whiplash injuries?
Whiplash signs and symptoms can go away after a week or two. However, studies have found whiplash pain and symptoms can become chronic if left untreated. One systematic review and meta-analysis found that 38% of people still experienced headaches and neck pain 12 months after the whiplash injury (Al-Khazali et. al, 2020). Because of this, consequences of a whiplash injury can mean missing work for a few days (or quite a number of days per year) and an increased difficulty in going about daily tasks. It’s also thought that, over time, whiplash injuries (especially when you’ve suffered more than one) can accelerate the degeneration process in your neck. To speed up your recovery from this type of injury and avoiding possible chronic pain, you can try whiplash treatment through different approaches, for example:
- Ice and heat to help ease pain and muscle tension.
- Massage and trigger point therapy to help address muscle spasms.
- Chiropractic treatments to help address loss of range of motion, structural misalignments, soft tissue support, and nerve injury resulting from the injury.
How can chiropractic care help me recover from whiplash injuries?
When a whiplash injury occurs, we have to understand that there are multiple things happening at once. The sudden and forceful movement of your head makes it so that your neck muscles don’t have enough time to protect themselves through muscle guarding, which means that muscle strains can occur. Because of this, your neck might be pushed past the limits of it’s normal range of motion, and this is what can cause ligament sprains along your neck. Finally, since both muscles and ligaments can fail to appropriately protect your neck, the bones in your neck can can misalign and irritation and inflammation over the spinal joints can set in.
These strains, sprains and joint irritations are what can cause the pain and limited range of motion associated with whiplash injuries. Thankfully, with gentle and specific spinal manipulation your local chiropractor can help you recover from whiplash quicker. Chiropractic treatments helps restore structural misalignments which help to increase range of motion, decrease joint inflammation and relieve muscle spasms.
Al-Khazali HM, Ashina H, Iljazi A, Lipton RB, Ashina M, Ashina S, Schytz HW. Neck pain and
headache after whiplash injury: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Pain. 2020
May;161(5):880-888. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001805. PMID: 31977938.