Whiplash is an injury to the cervical spine or neck and occurs when the muscles and other soft tissues are hyperextended or hyperflexed. Whiplash can damage the intervertebral discs of the upper spine,
Most instances of whiplash occur during a front or rear-end automobile collision. The force of the vehicle being struck or striking another object are quite powerful and can cause the neck muscles, ligaments, and tendons to twist and turn with incredible, unnatural force. These tissues, which are stretched far beyond their natural limits, can become torn and in some cases, permanently damaged. Vertebral discs in the cervical spine can bulge, tear, and rupture.
A chiropractic examination of a possible whiplash injury entails assessing whether a serious injury warrants hospitalization, and which tissues and spinal structures have been injured.
The exam may include such things as a cranial nerve examination, reflex and motor skill tests, and motion palpation, which assesses the spinal joints' mobility and pain response.
Possible treatments for whiplash may include:
- Muscle relaxation or stimulation, which entails gentle muscles stretches and/or finger pressure on specific sensory trigger points
- Heat therapy
- Ice therapy
- Spinal manipulation
- Range of motion and other therapeutic exercises designed to test the stability and integrity of the neck muscles and correct unnatural movement patterns in the neck and other areas
- Consultation about proper ergonomics, including tools used during work, as well as mattresses and pillows
Some people who incur whiplash supplement their chiropractic treatment with a device called a cervical collar, a soft cushion that envelopes the neck and keeps the weight of the head from applying undue pressure to damaged tissues during the healing process. Other methods may employ a cervical traction device, which keeps the neck immobile.
Most people who suffer whiplash can heal properly in two to four weeks, providing they follow the treatment regimen outlined by their chiropractor. Severe cases of whiplash involving trauma to the spine or discs may require surgery.