You're driving to work and stop for a red light. You're minding your own business and - bam! - your car rocks forward and backward, slammed in the rear by another car driven by some guy yakking on his cell phone. Or you're a passenger in a New York City taxi. The driver's cruising down Fifth Avenue when a teenager suddenly dashes into the intersection, running across the street against the light. The cabbie slams on the brakes and your head rocks forcefully backward and forward.
Or for reasons known only to yourself you decide it's a good idea to go bungee jumping. You dive into space, the cord extends, and finally the cord is fully played out. Significant physical forces blast through your body as you helplessly bounce back and forth, dangling in the air like a gaffed flying fish.
The result of each of these demonstrations of Isaac Newton's First Law of Motion? Later that day, or possibly within several days, you begin to experience neck pain. You might also have shoulder pain, headache, nausea, dizziness, and pain or numbness traveling down one or both arms. You have whiplash - a traumatic injury to the muscles, ligaments, and spinal joints of your neck and upper back.1,2
If you're lucky you'll get better in a few days. If the injuries are moderate or severe the various complaints will linger and may even get worse. As with any injury or illness, if you're not getting better right away you need to see your doctor. As you've suffered an injury to your head and neck, it may be a good idea to see your doctor as soon as you can, in any case, even if you think the injury is mild.
Your chiropractor is an excellent choice for examination and evaluation of injuries due to whiplash. She will be able to determine the nature and extent of the damage to muscle, ligament, and bone. Taking an x-ray series is a very important part of the evaluation of whiplash, as even seemingly modest forces can result in fracture of one or more vertebras in your neck. Evaluation of nerve function, including both spinal nerves and cranial nerves, is critically important. Pain and/or numbness radiating into one or both arms suggests injury to a cervical nerve root and needs to be thoroughly assessed.
If no fractures have been identified, chiropractic treatment can begin immediately. Over time, chiropractic treatment helps reduce inflammation of injured muscles and ligaments. Over time, chiropractic treatment helps restore normal ranges of motion to your neck and upper back. With this natural form of healing you begin to make incremental, steady progress, recovering the ability to participate in all your daily activities with reduced levels of pain and discomfort.
Chiropractic treatment provides optimal therapy for whiplash injuries, allowing your body to recover and return to normal by utilizing its own restorative powers.3
1Kasch H, et al: Clinical assessment of prognostic factors for long-term pain and handicap after whiplash injury: a 1-year prospective study. Eur J Neurol 15(11):1222-1230, 2008
2Chen HB, et al: Biomechanics of whiplash injury. Chin J Traumatol 12(5):305-314, 2009
3Michaleff ZA, et al: A randomised clinical trial of a comprehensive exercise program for chronic whiplash: trial protocol. BMC Musculoskeletal Disord 10:149, 2009 (12/2/09)