Curvesday Thursday: Whiplash and Chiropractic Treatment

Whiplash is a term that describes injury to the neck that occurs as a result of a motor vehicle or car accident. Whiplash occurs when one motor vehicle strikes another from behind, causing certain forces to be transmitted from the striking vehicle to the struck vehicle. These forces are then transmitted to the occupant(s) of the struck vehicle, where they have the potential to cause whiplash injury.

Shortly after impact (about 150 milliseconds), the cervical spine undergoes what is called an S-shaped curve. In this configuration, the cervical spine, rather than simply being curved to the front in a normal C-shape, as it would normally be at rest, takes on an altered shape:

  • The lower part of the cervical spine moves into extension (bent backward)
  • The upper part of the cervical spine moves into flexion (bent forward).

When a whiplash accident occurs, the lower part of the cervical spine moves well beyond its normal range of motion, causing the potential for injury to the ligaments and discs in that area. The upper part of the cervical spine also moves beyond its normal range of motion, but to a lesser extent.

Whiplash injuries can be quite complex and may include a variety of related problems, such as:

  • Joint dysfunction. As a result of the whiplash, one of the joints in the spine or limbs may lose its normal resiliency and shock absorption (referred to as the joint play), possibly leading to restricted range of movement and pain.
  • Disc herniation. A whiplash accident may injure the discs between the vertebrae, lead to small tears and cause the inner core of the disc to extrude through its outer core. If the disc’s inner core comes in contact with and irritates a nearby spinal nerve root, a herniated disc occurs, with symptoms possibly including sharp, shooting pain down the arm and even neurological symptoms like numbness, tingling and muscle weakness.
  • Faulty movement patterns. It is believed that the nervous system may change the way in which it controls the coordinated function of muscles as a result of a barrage of intense pain signals from the whiplash injury.
  • Chronic pain. While often resulting in minor muscle sprains and strains that heal with time, more severe whiplash injuries may produce neck pain and other symptoms that are persistent and long-lasting (chronic).
  • Cognitive and higher center dysfunction. In some instances, whiplash may affect the patient’s mental functioning, possibly leading to difficulties concentrating, as just one example.

Until recently, the reason for the extent of whiplash injuries was poorly understood. In addition, due to the legal and insurance issues, the veracity of complaints of neck pain and other symptoms by people who suffer from whiplash is commonly viewed as suspect.

However, recent research has helped clarify why occupants struck from behind experience more extensive whiplash injuries than those in other types of crashes. This new information is important for the physician treating whiplash pain, as it impacts the physician’s case management strategy.

The chiropractic treatment goals for cervical spine complaint management include (but are not limited to) some combination of:

  • Reducing pain
  • Improving motion
  • Restoring function to the head and neck region

There are two general chiropractic manipulation approaches for cervical spine complaints:

  • Cervical spinal manipulation – often thought of as the traditional chiropractic adjustment, or a high-velocity, low-amplitude (HVLA)technique
  • Cervical spinal mobilization – which is a more gentle/less forceful adjustment, or a low-velocity, low-amplitude (LVLA) technique moving the joint through a tolerable range of motion.

The combination of the various approaches varies from patient to patient depending on the chiropractor’s preferred techniques and preferences, the patient’s comfort and preferences, and the patient’s response to the treatment, as well as both past experience and observations made during the course of treatment. Chiropractors may also use adjunctive therapy to treat cervical spine complaints. Typical adjunctive therapies may include massage, therapeutic heat and/or cold application, and gentle stretching and strengthening exercises, and more.

Patients should be advised that the application of this treatment approach only occurs after a full patient history, physical examination, review of past, family, social histories, and review of systems have been completed. Tests resulting from this process may include X-ray, CT, MRI, EMG/NCV, laboratory blood and urine analysis, referral to a specialist, and/or possibly more, depending on each individual case presentation.

Been in a car accident? Do you have pain? Please call our office at (304) 263-4927 today to schedule an appointment. For more information regarding auto accidents and chiropractic, please click here.


Our Office Operations: Auto Accident Victims Need a Chiropractor!

In the moments following a car accident, your mind is racing with a million questions. Is my car okay? Where can I get it fixed? Will insurance cover everything? How am I going to go anywhere in the meantime? Often, the last question that comes to mind is “Am I hurt?”

Even if you are just sore, you should get checked out immediately. You may experience pain, numbness, headaches, muscle stiffness, fatigue and other problems (including arthritis) for a prolonged period of time after the incident. Remember, nothing is as important as your health, especially when you start to lose it.

So many times, we make excuses that hinder our well being. Well, it was just a fender bender and my car only sustained minor damage. There is no way I got hurt, right? Wrong! Documented studies done by Charles Carrroll, M.D., Paul McAtee, M.D. and Lee Riley, M.D. revealed that: “The amount of damage to the automobile bears little relation to the force applied to the cervical spine (neck) of the occupants.” In other words, the damage to the passengers is not necessarily directly related to the damage to the vehicle. While your bumper might have only “kissed” another bumper, your neck might have sustained an injury.

Even if you have gone to the hospital following an accident, you may need to see a chiropractor as well. The hospital will check vital signs, make sure you have no life-threatening conditions and release the patient with some pain management medications. What they do not do is treat the underlying injuries that can often lead to future chronic pain. The prescribed pain management medication will not correct structural or soft tissue damage, it will only mask the pain and inflammation.

Did you know that while you may not experience the obvious symptoms of post accident trauma (muscle stiffness and pain), you can experience other symptoms that may point to a spinal alignment injury. Headaches, difficulty sleeping, memory loss, fatigue and irritability are just a few symptoms that might mean you have an injury. A common complaint of auto accident victims is that they just don’t feel like themselves.

If you are experiencing pain after an automobile accident and have been given a clean bill of health at the hospital or your Dr’s office, please get a second opinion with a chiropractor. There are special drug-free therapies designed to correct the structural and soft tissue damage associated with post accident body pain, i.e. whiplash. Here at Chambers Chiropractic and Acupuncture, we effectively treat these injuries everyday. We understand the detection of hidden injuries and have developed a specialized treatment plan that can have you symptom free in a short period of time. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call our office at (304) 263-4927.

What Should You Do After a Car Accident?


Car accidents are never planned, yet they are those every day occurrences that can significantly change lives forever. The most important thing to do in the day following a crash is to make sure you are healthy and free from pain and injury.

Who Should You See After a Car Accident?

Whether you had a major accident or just a fender bender, it is best to have a follow up with your doctor. If you suspect fractures or internal bleeding, and especially if you hit your head during the crash, you should go to the hospital immediately. Even if you feel just fine after a car accident, it is best to be examined by your primary physician within the next day.

After a major accident, you will want to get X-rays done to ensure that no damage has been done to your skeletal system.

Should You See A Chiropractor After an Auto Accident?

It is best to see a chiropractor shortly after an automobile accident, regardless if it was a major or minor one. Your primary physician can rule out any suspicion of fractures or broken bones through X-rays.

Once immediate health risks are diagnosed and treated with your primary physician, a chiropractor can help with the following:

Reducing Pain: A bad accident can definitely give our bodies a shake up. During the occurrence of an automobile accident, it is very likely that a subluxation or misalignment has happened. Most commonly the place to be affected is the spine because of how a body can jerk forward and backward quickly. This can lead to whiplash and chronic back pain if gone untreated.

Whiplash is a result of a jolt to the spine and is felt in the neck or back region. Some cases of whiplash just cause mild pain because the muscles tense up, but more severe cases can cause excruciating pain and can misalign vertebrae in some individuals. There are also many more injuries that can occur, such as herniated discs or bone fractures. These types of accidents can cause chronic problems if not taken care of immediately, which is why it is important to be seen by a chiropractor as soon as possible.

Restoring Mobility: Car accidents leave many individuals sore after the crash, which is normal. However, many also have a hard time moving as easy as they once did, especially those who are older. If you find yourself in this situation, a chiropractor can increase your joint mobility and help you begin to feel like new again.

Preventing Further Damage: An accident leaves your body and health in less than optimal conditions. Therefore, it is easier for your body to sustain further injuries or ailments from another event, such as a minor slip and fall. Receiving chiropractic adjustments after the accident will help ensure that your body is healing and back to how it should be, which will in turn protect you in the future.

What Can You Expect on Your Chiropractic Visit?

Chiropractors specialize in complementary and alternative medicine. They diagnose, treat, and prevent disorders of the neuro-musculoskeletal system. A chiropractor will use manual techniques to manipulate the positions of vertebrae to alleviate pain and maintain correct positions.

When visiting a chiropractor after a car crash, it is important to describe in detail as much as possible about the car crash so they can recreate the scenario and inspect all areas that may be affected. If possible, it’s a good idea to write down and bring a summary of everything you remember about the accident, including the area of your car that was impacted, as well as the position in which you were seated, the position you ended up in after the accident, and any symptoms that you may feel.

The chiropractor may want to conduct an X-rays, if not brought along to the visit, to confirm that there are no fractures and will probably conduct a full inspection of your neck and back. After their examination and diagnosis, they will form a plan of treatment to get you on your way to a full recovery. There are several methods of reducing muscle stiffness and pain and they will probably do an adjustment to correct anything that may be out of place.

The steps you take in seeking medical attention from all sources in the first days are crucial to your recovery and rehabilitation from pain and injury.