Chiropractic & Whiplash

Whiplash In DavenportWhy Do We Get Whiplash?


Davenport Chiropractors


Whiplash is a word that gets overused quite a bit. Anybody who has ever been involved in a car accident, usually thinks that they have whiplash. The term gets used a lot in crime dramas because people understand that it is an injury to the neck. They also, often incorrectly, associate whiplash injuries with a neck collar. So let’s start by going through what whiplash is, how it happens, and some of the best ways to treat it.

What Is Whiplash?

Whiplash is the common term for a rapid acceleration-deceleration injury to the cervical spine. This means that your head goes backward very fast and then goes forward very rapidly.

This happens very commonly during car accidents, but can also happen during sporting events or falls. During this rapid acceleration-deceleration the ligaments and muscles that surround the cervical vertebrae (neck bones) can become damaged.

This damage will often lead to inflammation, pain, stiffness, and headaches. It may also cause damage to the nerves that exit the spine in the neck and cause tingling and numbness in the hands. Some of the muscles in the neck also attach in the mid back, so it is not uncommon to get pain and stiffness between your shoulder blades.

How Does Whiplash Occur?

The neck is vulnerable to this type of injury due to its many functions. Your neck can bend forward, look up, bend side to side, and rotate in both directions. This leaves most of the support structure to muscles. Each muscle has a specialized function, and therefore can’t provide enough stability when all of the force is pushing it in one direction.

Just because these muscles can’t provide enough stability, it doesn’t mean that they don’t try. You will get some residual neck pain in these muscles from over-exertion. The main injury comes from over-stretching or spraining the ligaments and muscles that work to flex and extend the neck.

How Do You Diagnose Whiplash?

As we have discussed, whiplash is a soft tissue injury. The only way to definitively diagnose a soft tissue injury is through an MRI or CT scan. Typically a set of x-rays with flexion and extension views are taken first. This helps to determine if there is too much movement between the vertebra. If there is too much movement, this indicates that a ligament has been torn. This will put you on a fast track to an MRI and most likely surgery.

If the x-rays come back and don’t show any problems, you are ready to start on your road to recovery. You need to restore proper motion and proper muscle tone. Let’s talk about ways to achieve these goals.

How Do You Treat Whiplash?

I am a Chiropractor, so I obviously think that Chiropractic care to treat whiplash works very well. In our office, we will typically take x-rays with the flexion and extension views to determine if there are any fractures or torn ligaments.

A detailed history of the accident is important. It will help to determine the position that your head and neck were in when the accident occurred. This will give us an idea of what muscles will be tight and which vertebra may be mis-aligned. Be as specific as possible, these details can help to quicken the recovery.

A good exam, where we will do orthopedic tests to test for structural problems as well as neurological tests to see if the nerves are affected. These tests can help determine if there is a problem in a specific area and can help us to target the treatment better.

On your first visit, we do not typically adjust the neck. We do a lot of myofascial release to loosen the tight neck muscles. This helps to restore normal motion. We don’t want to put too much force into the neck in such a short period of time. By working with the muscles first, it takes some of the stress off of the vertebra and can help with pain relief. We will also give you stretches to keep these muscles loose between visits.

On the following visits, we will continue to work with the muscles and adjust the vertebra that are subluxated (mis-aligned). We will add exercises (physical therapy) later in the treatment process to help stabilize the area. We may also coordinate your care with a physical therapist, to help you recover faster. We will also set functional goals so that we can make sure you are in pre-accident condition before we release you from care.

So, if you have been involved in a car accident in the Quad Cities and are looking for a Chiropractor in Davenport that helps with whiplash, be sure to give us a call! Drive Safe, Get Adjusted and Be Well!

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