Whiplash: Common Causes and Treatments

Kate Keenan blog

Whiplash pain

Whiplash is a condition that occurs when the head thrusts forward and backward violently, such as what often happens in a car accident. This thrusting motion most often causes a sore, stiff neck. It can also cause pain in the shoulders, arms, and back, as well as headaches and brain fog.

While whiplash typically occurs during car accidents, it can happen any time the head jolts back and forth with considerable force. A blow to the head, a work or sports injury, or any other type of accident can result in whiplash. Before the term whiplash became popular, the condition often went by the name railway spine as it referred to neck stiffness and pain after a train accident.

Roughly two million people are affected by whiplash each year, and the effects are far-reaching. Outside of health issues, there are worries regarding doctor’s visits, lost work and wages, and sometimes litigation when a car accident is involved.

What Happens During a Whiplash Injury?

Understanding what happens to the body during a whiplash accident can help you understand treatment options. When the head is thrust forward the spine hyperextends one direction at the base of the skull, while lower down the spinal column, it hyperextends in the other direction. This causes an unnatural “S” shape in the spine.

Hyperextension can cause swelling in the muscles, joints, and ligaments. It often causes spinal discs to slip out of place, leading to further pressure and pain in the area. The tension associated with the injury results in sore muscles throughout the body.

In more severe cases of whiplash, patients can experience brain fog, dizziness, and ringing in the ears.

How Does Whiplash Affect Me?

Whiplash can sometimes heal on its own, given time. Resolution often occurs within a few days in these cases. However, up to 50% of whiplash sufferers who believe their injuries have resolved present with chronic conditions resulting from the whiplash as long as ten years later. When pain and stiffness continue, it can be helpful to seek out treatment.

Many people take pain medication for their whiplash. They may also seek out steroids to reduce swelling. However, whiplash medication can have undesirable side effects.

Finding a long-lasting whiplash injury treatment can help you find relief from your pain and stiffness, as well as provide you with healing to prevent future problems. Gentle stretching exercises, paired with treatment designed to reduce swelling are an excellent place to start. These can reduce stiffness and restore range of motion in the affected areas.

Getting Chiropractic Treatment for Whiplash

Working with a chiropractor can also be beneficial. A chiropractor can employ laser therapy or ultrasound technology to reduce swelling, increase blood flow, and promote healing to the stretched or torn muscles.

Once swelling has gone down, your chiropractor can evaluate your neck, spine, and shoulders to realign joints and spinal discs that shifted out of place during the accident. Realigning the spinal column will relieve pressure and further restore movement in the area. These treatments can prevent future issues caused by bulging discs or pinched nerves in the neck, upper back, and shoulder area.

Chiropractic care for whiplash can also help treat more severe symptoms, including dizziness and ringing in the ears. Using gentle manipulation techniques in the upper neck and ear region, the chiropractor can relieve stiffness and swelling. This realignment clears blockages, which cause the sensors in the ears to send incorrect signals to the brain.

While roughly 80% of whiplash injuries are minor, finding lasting pain relief and healing through chiropractic care can help prevent problems from arising later on. This can take away some of the worry associated with whiplash injuries and allow you to get back to living your life.

Kate's interest in the medical field began with her mother, who worked as a Special Care Nursery nurse for 50 years. Kate began working in the medical field with a mobile X-ray company, where she continued to foster her interest and learn critical information about a variety of diseases and conditions, along with the processes of diagnosing and treating them. Kate has been writing professionally for 12 years, and she is working on her Masters in English. She loves dogs, good food, and the beach.