A whiplash injury can cause various symptoms which differ from patient to patient. While there are also various treatments that chiropractors use to relieve these painful symptoms, the chosen approach will depend on the patient’s prognosis. Before a whiplash injury can be treated, the chiropractor will perform a thorough chiropractic examination to understand the type of dysfunctions the patient is experiencing. Upon these findings, a customised treatment plan will be made to treat the whiplash injury with chiropractic care.
Before we talk about the different types of chiropractic treatments for whiplash, let’s learn a little more about the injury and related symptoms.
What is Whiplash?
Referred to as Cervical Acceleration-Deceleration (CAD) syndrome in the medical field, a whiplash injury is the result of the neck and head moving backwards and immediately thrusted forward at a very quick pace. This sudden, high-speed range of motion in the cervical spine causes excessive stress to the area which, in turn, leads to painful symptoms in and around the neck region.
The most common cause of whiplash is sustained in four-wheeler accidents or even cases wherein the brakes of a vehicle traveling at high speed are suddenly jammed, thus causing the back and forward neck and head movement as explained earlier. Although it is rare, one can also sustain whiplash while on a rollercoaster, when bungee jumping, or while performing high-impact sports/activities.
What are the Symptoms of Whiplash?
It is generally quite easy to diagnose whiplash due to the common symptoms experienced among patients. These include the following:
- Neck Pain: At the time of sustaining the injury, muscles or ligaments are typically sprained, thus causing pain in the neck. The pain may be limited to one specific area or radiate between the shoulders, all the way down to the hands. Whiplash can also injure spinal discs, bones, and nerves which all have the potential to cause neck pain.
- Restricted Neck Mobility: There are a few things that can restrict mobility in this region and cause neck stiffness such as pain, mechanical problems, and muscle tightness.
- Thoracic Spine Pain & Shoulder Pain: Soft tissue damage in the neck can cause referred pain to muscles or ligaments in the shoulders and upper back region.
- Weakness/Numbness/Tingling: If one or more nerve roots in the cervical spine are affected by the injury, one might experience numbness, weakness and tingling. These symptoms often originate around the neck region and radiate down to the shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers.
- Headaches: Muscle tightness in the neck and problems in the cervical spine such as nerve irritation and joint-related issues, can lead to recurring headaches.
How Chiropractors Successfully Treat Whiplash
A chiropractor will perform various chiropractic treatments to relieve symptoms of whiplash and put patients on the right track to make a full recovery. Along with applied chiropractic techniques, lifestyle and ergonomic changes may also be advised in order to reduce the strain on dysfunctional areas caused by whiplash.
Here are some of the ways in which chiropractors can treat and help patients with a whiplash injury.
Spinal Manipulation and/or Mobilisation (For Joint Dysfunction)
Chiropractic adjustments are used to realign the spine, improve spinal motion, alleviate pain and discomfort in the body, and improve one’s overall physical function. When treating a whiplash injury, the chiropractor will locate dysfunctional joints and work on them with spinal manipulation or mobilisation techniques. The former involves applying a quick thrust that forces the joint into the opposite direction that it is able to move in while the latter does the same with gentle pressure and slow movements. These are safe and painless techniques that may only lead to mild soreness and discomfort for a short amount of time.
Stimulating & Relaxing Muscles (For Muscle Dysfunction)
Once again, the chiropractor pinpoints areas or muscles that are stressed and tight before using various techniques to gently stretch and stimulate them. The fingers are generally used to stretch tensed muscles that are causing pain or discomfort in one or more parts of the body. This applied pressure aids in stimulating and relaxing the muscles so that the pain is alleviated. In some severe cases of whiplash, the chiropractor will perform more vigorous stretches if the patient is comfortable with it or physically able to receive them.
Physical Therapy & Exercise
When referred to a physical therapist, your chiropractor will likely advise a few simple exercises which include the McKenzie Method – a customised exercise program that is created to treat and prevent whiplash and other injuries. More notably, if disc derangement is a problem that occurred due to whiplash, the activities in the McKenzie exercise program will aid in reducing it. Along with this, sensorimotor exercises are also highly advised as they ultimately reduce the strain experienced in affected areas after sustaining a whiplash injury.
Advisable Lifestyle & Ergonomic Changes
One of the biggest contributors to dysfunction in the body and worsening of injuries/symptoms is poor ergonomics and lifestyle habits. They often put a high amount of unnecessary stress and strain on the body, thus causing further dysfunction in the body. With extensive knowledge on spine health and the many different causes of spinal problems and related disorders, chiropractors are well-versed in ergonomics and habits that worsen whiplash symptoms and encourage more dysfunction. With their expert advice, patients of whiplash injuries can make necessary changes that aid in recovery and prevention of recurring whiplash symptoms or future spinal problems.
Treating whiplash or Cervical Acceleration-Deceleration (CAD) syndrome with chiropractic care is one of the safest and most effective ways to improve symptoms of the injury and make a full recovery. At MSK Therapy, we provide thorough assessments and customised treatment programs to successfully treat patients for whiplash as per their prognosis and symptoms. For more information, or to consult with one of our licensed and experienced chiropractors, schedule an appointment with us today.