Chiropractic Care for Whiplash: What to Expect

Being in a car accident, even a minor one, can affect your life in a big way. For one, there’s the hassle of dealing with your (or someone else’s) insurance company and getting your car fixed or replaced. Many who’ve been in more severe car accidents report psychological stress and anxiety about getting back behind the wheel. And in some cases there are also physical injuries involved. The most common car accident injury of all? You guessed it — whiplash.

While whiplash symptoms and severity can vary from person to person, many victims have found relief and recovery through chiropractic care. Read on to find out more about whiplash and how visiting a chiropractor can be part of your recovery plan.

What is Whiplash?

By definition, whiplash occurs when a victim’s head endures a rapid forward and backward movement. The most common cause of whiplash is a car accident, where even a minor fender-bender can result in whiplash.

It is estimated that about 1 million Americans suffer from a whiplash injury each year.

The side effects of whiplash can vary from person to person, but typically include pain or stiffness in the neck, headaches, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, and numbness in arms or shoulders. While symptoms might not occur immediately and for many people they subside after a week or two, they can last (and continue to worsen) for over a year in severe cases. For this reason, many patients will seek chiropractic care as part of their treatment.

How Can Chiropractic Care Help?

A chiropractor will start by examining your entire spine, looking for areas of misalignment, tenderness, or stiffness. Most whiplash treatment will begin by tackling the inflammation that typically results from the injury. A chiropractor may use ultrasound, or gentle stretching of the muscles, and recommend you use an ice pack regularly or rest your neck often throughout the day.

Once inflammation has subsided, a chiropractor will choose the best technique for your specific case of whiplash. The most common of these is flexion-distraction technique where gently spinal manipulations are made to treat herniated discs. Instrument-assisted manipulation, a treatment more common with older patients, is a similar method that employs a hand-held device which applies force with very gentle movements.

Apart from the attention given to the spine itself, a chiropractor will also stretch and treat the muscles and tissues around the injury site. This might include tissue therapy, done with bare hands or the use of an instrument, therapeutic massage, and even ultrasound to increase blood circulation to tissues. Depending on the severity of your whiplash, these treatments could last anywhere from just a few sessions to several months until your neck and spine have fully recovered.

Finding a Qualified Chiropractor

If you’ve recently suffered from whiplash, or another kind of neck or back injury, consider visiting a chiropractor. Unfortunately, not all chiropractors offer high quality care. Ask your primary care physician for list of recommended chiropractors. When choosing one, don’t be afraid to ask about qualifications, experience, and credentials. An inexperienced chiropractor could actually make an injury like whiplash worse rather than better, so it’s imperative that you find an experienced specialist you can trust.