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Chiropractic Care for Whiplash

If you have neck pain caused by whiplash, you may want to visit a chiropractor who can provide nonsurgical treatment options for pain relief and recovery. Whiplash is an injury to the neck muscles from rapid forward and backward motion of the neck caused by a trauma (e.g. car accident or sports injury). It can cause acute (short-term) neck pain as well as restricted movement in your neck, which may lead to future, chronic conditions. Simply using OTC or prescription opioid medications alone to help with pain will only delay the healing process and further complicate recovery. Chiropractors are specifically trained to address musculoskeletal injuries that affect the soft tissue, as well as the altered bio-mechanics that are a result of the injury.

How Does a Chiropractor Diagnose a Whiplash Injury?

The chiropractor evaluates your spine as a whole—even if you go to the chiropractor complaining of neck pain following a trauma. He or she will examine the entire spine because other regions of the spine may be affected or contributing to your discomfort. The chiropractor identifies any areas of restricted joint motion, muscle spasm, ligament injury, and any other potential areas of injury. He or she may use a technique called motion and static palpation to test pain levels, areas of tenderness, and range of motion. In instances of acute traumatic injuries, assessing ligament stability is extremely important to diagnosis and treatment options.In addition to the chiropractor’s evaluation of your spine, he or she will likely take x-rays of your spine to evaluate any degenerative changes that may have existed before your whiplash injury, as well as to rule out any other injuries. The diagnostic images and results of your physical and neurological evaluation are compared to develop the best treatment plan of care.

Stages of Whiplash Treatment

Immediately after whiplash injuries occur, the inflammatory response is triggered and the process begins. Seeking treatment as soon as possible following an injury of any kind will have an impact on how well you respond and recover. In the acute phase of care, the chiropractor will focus on reducing inflammation using various types of therapy options. Along with any passive treatment, such as electrical stimulation therapy, he or she may also use gentle stretching techniques to minimize stiffness and muscle tone in the affected areas.

The chiropractor may also recommend you apply an ice pack on your neck and/or a light neck support to use for a short period of time. As your neck becomes less inflamed and the pain decreases, your chiropractor will perform gentle spinal manipulation or other techniques to restore normal motion to the your neck’s spinal joints.

facet joints allow the neck to move forward and backward

Chiropractic Treatments for Whiplash

Your specific treatment plan depends on the severity of your whiplash injury. The most common chiropractic technique involves manipulating spinal vertebra that have become misaligned. This misalignment, while not always recognizable to the patient, is a precursor to the chronic degenerative process that often results from injuries that have gone untreated. The two most common spinal manipulation techniques we use at Greenwood Health Center are:

  • instrument-assisted manipulation: This technique is another non-thrusting technique chiropractors often use. Using a specialized hand-held instrument, the chiropractor applies force without thrusting into the spine. This type of manipulation is useful for older patients who have a degenerative joint syndrome or those who are unable to tolerate the hands-on method.
  • specific spinal manipulation: The chiropractor identifies spinal joints that are restricted or show abnormal motion (called subluxations). Using this technique, he or she will help restore motion to the joint with a gentle thrusting technique. This gentle thrusting stretches soft tissue and stimulates the nervous system to restore normal motion to the spine.

In addition to spinal manipulation, many chiropractors may also use manual therapy to treat injured soft tissues (eg, ligaments and muscles). Some examples of manual therapies your chiropractor may use include manual joint stretching, trigger point therapy to alleviate specific areas of muscle tension, or therapeutic massage to ease other areas of muscle tension. Along with using manual therapies to affect the soft tissue, it is important to start strengthening the injured areas to help stabilize the corrections that are being made. This is where the importance of physical therapy comes into play, helping to restore normal motion while reducing symptoms.

How Does a Chiropractor Help

Chiropractors look at the whole person—not just the painful problem. Whether symptoms are present due to a lifetime of wear and tear, a single traumatic event, or any other scenario, using a conservative approach to pain management is the best way to resolve the issue at hand. Working alongside the patient’s primary care physician will give the patient everything they need to not only manage the acute aspect of their condition, but to help prevent future episodes as well. Each patient is unique, meaning no two individuals respond the same. It is important to educate each patient on the importance of their care, while placing emphasis on prevention as the key to long-term health.