Immediately after getting into a car accident, you may feel just fine. You may not notice any pain, and aside from being a little shaken up, you might not feel any different than you did before the accident. But after a few hours pass and your adrenaline levels out, you may notice you have intense pain radiating through your neck. This phenomena is known as “whiplash.”
Whiplash occurs when your neck is suddenly thrust forward and backward, and is caused by acute trauma to the neck. Car accidents are by far the most common form of trauma that causes whiplash, as a seat belt keeps your body in place from the shoulders down, but offers no stability or support for your neck. Whiplash is a temporary condition, but it can still be debilitating and cause you suffering until your neck muscles heal.
A chiropractor can help accelerate the heal time of you injury and alleviate your pain. A chiropractor will diagnose whiplash by assessing your symptoms, particularly by assessing your neck for extreme stiffness, but will also evaluate your entire spine to make sure the injury is concentrated solely in your neck. He will evaluate your joints, observe how you walk and check your spinal alignment and balance. In rare cases, a chiropractor may recommend that you have an x-ray or MRI exam conducted to further analyze the extent of your injury.
The first stage of your chiropractic treatment will be focused on reducing the inflammation and swelling commonly associated with whiplash. To reduce the inflammation, he may gently massage your neck, instruct you in stretching exercises or recommend that you treat the area directly with cold compresses and ice packs. Some chiropractors may even use ultrasound techniques to alleviate the swelling.
Once the initial inflammation has subsided, you will still experience some level of pain. During this stage of treatment, your pain will be minor enough that a chiropractor can conduct light manipulation on your neck and upper spine to fix any misalignments developed during the collision. He will gently, safely and non-invasively use his hands to work your vertebrae back into proper alignment, reducing tension and stress on your nervous system. This should dramatically reduce your pain, and over time, your symptoms will subside completely and you will be entirely pain free.
In the event your chiropractor identified any additional problem areas in your spine during your initial evaluation, he will tackle these problems once your whiplash pain has subsided. Most commonly, he will treat you with therapeutic massage and spinal adjustment to restore alignment to your entire spine and transition your nervous system back to optimum health and functioning.