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Common Questions About Chiropractic Care for Whiplash Injuries

Published Date: 
August 3, 2022
A woman clutches the back of her neck in pain after a rear-end car accident.

Chiropractic care is one of the most common treatments for whiplash injuries. Here are answers to the most common questions.

What is whiplash?

Whiplash is sudden hypertension and hyperflexion of the spine in the neck or cervical region beyond its normal range of motion. Whiplash is a common injury in non-fatal car accidents, especially rear-enders, but can also occur due to other trauma, like high-impact sports.

How does whiplash happen?

Whiplash occurs when impact flings your neck forward and suddenly backward with a lot of force on the rebound phase, tracing a whiplash's motion. Ligaments and tendons tear and vertebral discs slip out of place, causing pain and decreased range of motion.

How much vehicular speed is required to cause whiplash?

Whiplash is common in rear-end collisions at slow speed. Collisions of 5 to 10 miles per hour can cause whiplash. According to Panjabi, et al., a Yale University study explains that ligament, joint, and disc injuries can occur in forces between 6.5 and 5.8 G, typical for crashes less than 15mph. Don't downplay injuries from a low-speed collision since whiplash could be one of them.

What are the symptoms of whiplash?

Most symptoms of whiplash do not manifest until days or weeks after the injury. Whiplash's telltale signs are pain in the upper cervical region, soreness, and stiffness. If you suffer nerve root encroachment after whiplash, you may experience headaches, vertigo, dizziness, blurred vision, tinnitus, fatigue, numbness, and inability to concentrate.

A woman is receiving chiropractic care for a whiplash injury.

Can chiropractors help with whiplash?

Chiropractors employ spinal adjustment techniques to realign your spine, restore mobility, reduce inflammation, and minimize pain. The adjustments improve the spinal alignment and central nervous system function to treat symptoms of whiplash and prevent long-term mobility issues.

How does a chiropractor diagnose a whiplash injury?

A chiropractor uses motion assessment, body posture evaluation, and imaging tests to diagnose whiplash. The chiropractor will examine your whole spine before developing a treatment plan for your whiplash injury.

How do chiropractors treat whiplash injuries?

Chiropractors treat whiplash injuries using corrective, noninvasive mechanisms. The mechanisms involve spinal manipulation and soft tissue therapy to realign your vertebrae bones and restore the range of motion in your neck while eliminating pain. Chiropractic treatment can involve slow adjustments or thrusts to push the spine back into its functional position.

What long-term problems are associated with whiplash injuries?

If whiplash is left untreated, it may morph into chronic neck pain and limited mobility. Chronic pain is more likely to occur in people with a history of neck issues or previous cases of whiplash, older adults, and after severe car accidents. Treatment during the acute phase is essential.

Can whiplash cause neurological problems?

Whiplash can cause neurological problems like brain fog when nerve root encroachment occurs from the pressure of herniated discs. Referred pain is another neurological problem associated with damaged ligaments and facet joint damage.

How is inflammation caused by whiplash treated by a chiropractor?

Spinal adjustments realign your spine to improve circulation and cut back on cytokine production, the culprit behind excess inflammation. The chiropractor can use soft tissue manipulation to target the inflamed area or an ultrasound device to stimulate the tissues.

How often should you see a chiropractor for whiplash?

Your chiropractor will determine the number of visits you need. Generally, you will need more visits for severe whiplash than for subtle injuries. Only a certified chiropractor can determine how often you need whiplash treatment.

A woman is getting a chiropractic neck adjustment to treat whiplash.

How long does it take to recover from whiplash?

The degree of whiplash varies depending on the force and damage, and recovery time depends on the chosen treatment plan and the frequency of treatments. Some patients recover within days; others within months. The essence of chiropractic care is to realign your spine, but it also speeds up the recovery process after a car accident.

How long does whiplash take to heal with chiropractic treatments?

Every whiplash injury is unique. There is no set time for healing. You may heal from whiplash in 6 weeks to 6 months after multiple chiropractic adjustments. Most patients see a resolution after six months, but this does not mean you should stop your visits.

Do I need a medical referral to be seen by a chiropractor for whiplash?

You do not need a referral to visit a chiropractor. Chiropractors are medical practitioners that specialize in spinal problems; therefore, you can book an appointment with them directly.

Does insurance cover chiropractic care for whiplash?

In most cases, medical and auto insurance covers some chiropractic care. However, it is rare to find a coverage plan that foots the entire chiropractic bill. It is best to review your policy or contact your insurer to clarify whether they will cover the charges.

Dr. Darren Faherty D.C.

In 2004, Dr. Darren Faherty graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree in Biology from UWEC - University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. Dr. Darren continued education at the highly esteemed University of Western States (formerly Western States Chiropractic College) where he obtained his chiropractic degree in 2007. He has been helping people recover from injuries and return to their normal lifestyles ever since.

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