Whiplash is a non-medical term describing a range of injuries to the neck caused by or related to a sudden distortion of the neck, mostly associated with extension forces. “Cervical acceleration-deceleration” (CAD) describes the mechanism of the injury, which is most commonly caused by rear-end automobile accidents. However, any mechanism of abrupt impact, such as a bicycle wreck or a slip and fall, can cause a whiplash-type injury.
Common whiplash symptoms include: pain and aching in the neck and back, headaches, referred pain to the shoulders or into the arms and hands, sensory changes (such as numbness, or pins and needles) into the arms or legs. Symptoms can appear immediately after the injury, but often are not felt until days afterwards. Oftentimes after the initial shock is over, symptoms may also include fatigue, change in appetite, difficulty concentrating, and irritability.
As chiropractors, our job is to properly diagnosis the extent of the injury, and determine appropriate treatment. Diagnosis is obtained with a thorough patient history, head and spine examination, x-rays (to rule out fractures and ligamentous instability). Further imaging, such as a spinal MRI, may be ordered if more serious underlying soft tissue injuries are suspected.
According to the recommendations made by the Quebec Task Force, treatment for individuals with whiplash-type injuries should include spinal manipulation, mobilizations and range of motion exercises. How much, and which type of treatment is necessary, depends on the extent of the injury. We quite commonly co-treat with physical therapists, as well as recommending medical massage to achieve optimum results.