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Whiplash Injury

Injuries to the neck that cause a sudden backward, forward, or sideways motion are referred to as Whiplash injuries. Whiplash injury occurs when the head is thrown in one and quickly thrust into the opposite direction.  Whiplash injuries can occur from car accidents, sports, work accidents, etc.  Chiropractors frequently treat whiplash injuries.

There are a variety of symptoms that can occur from a whiplash injury. A vertebrae can be forced out of its normal position, also known as a subluxation, which creates pain and decrease range of motion. The muscles and ligaments supporting the spine can be over stretched or torn. The discs between the vertebrae can also bulge, tear, or rupture. The injury from a whiplash trauma can also extend to your head, arms, and shoulders. You can experience frequent headaches, numbness, and tingling in your hands.

Immediately after the accident you may feel some neck soreness, maybe accompanied by a headache.  The pain may increase later and be accompanied by numbness, tingling , or pins and needles down your arms, hands, fingers or between your shoulder blades. Depending on the nerves affected, you may also have dizziness, blurred vision, ringing in ears, or sensitivity to light.

The ligaments and muscles that make up your spine can be over stretched or torn.  This tissue damage causes the area to become inflamed and most people won’t feel the pain until the next morning.  This is caused by the body’s inflammation response to micro lesions.  A 2010 study found that chiropractic adjustments help the body release an anti-inflammatory substance that is used to help heal acute injuries.

The tissues also become immobile when there is inflammation, which slows down healing to the area.  This makes it more difficult for the ligaments of the spine to get the proper nutrients and blood supply.  Chiropractic adjustments restore motion to the spine, which increases blood flow and nutrients to the area. 

To help the muscles, tendons and ligaments heal; your body begins laying down scar tissue.  This works as a temporary patch to the injured area.  Chiropractic adjustments and massage therapy help break up the scar tissue in the neck and back.

Research from 2000 and 2003 also found that motor vehicle accident patients who got early treatment which focused on mobilizing the injured area recovered faster and had fewer symptoms later on in life from the crash.  Chiropractic adjustments help the joints move better in your spine, helping to prevent chronic pain.


  • Roy RA, Boucher JP, Comtois AS. Inflammatory response following a short-term course of chiropractic treatment in subjects with and without chronic low back pain. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine 2010;9(3):107-14.

  • Rosenfeld M, Gunnarsson R, Borenstein P. Early intervention in whiplash-associated disorders: a comparison of two treatment protocols. Spine 2000; 25(14):1782-7.

  • Rosenfeld M, Seferiadis A, Carlsson J,and Gunnarsson R. Active intervention in patients with whiplash-associated disorders. Spine 2003; 28(22):2491-8.