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Early Mobilization for Whiplash Due to Car Accident

Published Date: 
April 18, 2017
A man is suffering from whiplash pain after an accident.

Car accidents, including low-velocity ones, can have delayed effects on your body. In particular, whiplash, caused by a sudden backward or forward head motion, may show symptoms only after 24 hours or a few days. Even rear-end low-speed collisions at the speed of 10 to 15 kilometers per hour have been connected to whiplashes. Patients who have whiplash may experience neck pain, headaches, and low back pain apart from dizziness and shoulder pain. While minor whiplashes may be cured by rest, studies indicate the importance of early movement to an improved rate of recuperation. Here’s what you need to know about the role of early movement in addressing symptoms of whiplash caused by car accident and other possible treatment options.

The Importance of Early Mobilization for Whiplash Injuries

Early neck mobilization is important to make a fast recovery from whiplash symptoms. Today, doctors no longer recommend using a cervical collar because it limits the neck’s range of motion and worsens pain, stiffness, and muscle atrophy. For better and quicker recovery, patients must gently move and exercise their necks 24 hours after the accident.

Treatment Methods for Whiplash

The proper treatment for whiplash depends on the symptoms and the patient’s perception of pain, among other factors. Below are diverse treatment procedures from ice packs to chiropractic care.


Doctors often recommend over-the-counter or prescription medicine for neck, back, and shoulder pain caused by whiplash. Two common over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are naproxen and ibuprofen. Both medicines have the effect of reducing the hormones that cause inflammation and pain. If the pain continues despite taking NSAIDs, doctors may prescribe narcotic pain medications, which are strong pain relievers, such as fentanyl, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone. These narcotic drugs affect the brain by changing how your body perceives and reacts to pain.

One of the main problems with pain medication is their side effect. Fentanyl may produce fever, nausea, respiratory depression, and vomiting, while ibuprofen could have the side effects of hemorrhage, anemia, vomiting, and hypertension. Likewise, opioids might make patients feel drowsy, nauseated, or constipated, whereas others may become addicted to these drugs.

Ice or Heat Packs

To alleviate swelling and pain, doctors advise placing an ice or heat pack on the neck for 24 hours. The coolness of the ice pack can decrease bleeding and reduce the swelling of overstretched neck muscles and ligaments when used for 15 minutes every hour. Some patients prefer heat packs though which also abate inflammation and can be applied on the painful area for 15 minutes every two hours. Heat packs relax the muscles and stimulate blood flow to the affected area.

While this can induce pain relief when applied, ice and heat packs expose the patient to risks. Ice packs, for instance, can lead to frost bites, while excessive heat can burn and scald the skin. Note that heat packs should not be applied on a new injury as it can worsen bleeding under the injured skin.

Chiropractic Treatments

A chiropractor will not generalize treatment approaches, because whiplash affects each patient differently. For joint dysfunction, the chiropractor can use spinal manipulation. Here, the affected area is treated by applying a quick thrust. Spinal manipulations have been connected to quick pain relief and faster recovery for some whiplash patients.

Besides manipulation, a chiropractor may use muscle relaxation, stimulation, or both. Muscle relaxation refers to the gentle stretching of very tense or tight muscles. Apart from muscle stimulation, a chiropractor may use McKenzie and stabilization exercises to decrease disc derangement and fix incorrect movement patterns, respectively.

Finally, a chiropractor can offer education about ergonomics and recommend lifestyle modifications, such as the proper posture and movements for each type of work task along with stress-reduction techniques.

Whiplash car accident cases can be treated through a combination of rest, medication, and chiropractic care. Gentle movement is advised in order to aid recuperation and decrease pain. If diagnosed with a whiplash, remember to apply ice or heat and consider visiting a chiropractor for a comprehensive treatment program.


“Biomechanics of Minor Automobile Accidents: Treatment Implications for Associated Chronic Spine Symptoms,”
“Chiropractic Treatments for Whiplash,”
“Fentanyl Transdermal,”

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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