Whiplash is an injury which results from sudden acceleration-deceleration forces on the neck. The term encompasses a variety issues affecting muscles, joints, bones, ligaments, discs and nerves.

What Causes Whiplash?

Whiplash generally results from a traumatic event involving sudden acceleration-deceleration forces. The most common cause of whiplash is a motor vehicle accident. Other potential causes may include roller-coasters, bungee jumping, or a sports-related collision.

What are the Symptoms of Whiplash?

Symptoms and severity of whiplash can vary significantly between people. The most commonly reported symptom is neck pain or stiffness. This can occur anywhere from immediately after the injury to several days later.

Symptoms may include:

  • Neck pain or stiffness

  • Headache

  • Shoulder pain, arm pain, or upper back pain.

  • Dizziness

  • Altered sensation

  • Weakness

  • Visual disturbances

  • Hearing difficulties

  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing

  • Difficulty concentrating

How is Whiplash Diagnosed?

Whiplash is a clinical diagnosis based on your history of injury and clinical testing. Radiological tests may be useful to identify injury to specific structures such as a fractured vertebra, disc injury, muscles, or ligaments.

Red Flags

Due to the traumatic nature of a whiplash injury; there is a risk of more urgent or sinister injuries that need to be ruled out before undergoing treatment. Our chiropractors are trained to detect anything abnormal which warrants further investigation, however, please notify a health professional if you have (or develop) any of the following:

  • Bilateral pins and needles

  • Gait disturbances

  • Progressively worsening weakness or sensation problems

  • Pins and needles or numbness in the face

  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing

  • Drop attacks/fainting

  • Bladder or bowel problems

Whiplash Treatment

Research shows the most effective way to treat your injury is with a combination of treatment options that are tailored to your individual dysfunctions. Research evidence supports various treatment approaches. Your best treatment direction should be guided by an expert in rehabilitation such as a chiropractor who specializes in neck injuries or whiplash. Potential treatment methods for whiplash include:

  • Active treatment guided by your chiropractor.

  • Exercise to encourage flexibility, strength, and good posture.

  • Fine neck muscle and proprioception retraining programs guided by your chiropractor.

  • Class IV laser or dry needling for pain relief.

  • Education on the injury: asking questions!

  • Joint mobilization or manipulation to loosen stiff joints.

  • Vestibular rehabilitation if dizziness is one of your symptoms.

  • Soft tissue massage may assist in short-term muscle tension relief.

  • Electric Stimulation for pain relief and to assist early healing.

  • Continuing your normal daily regime as best as you can.

  • Return to your activities of daily living.


Most whiplash patients will start to feel better within a few weeks of the injury. Your chiropractic treatment will aim to:

  • Reduce neck pain, headaches, and inflammation.

  • Normalize joint range of motion.

  • Strengthen your neck muscles.

  • Strengthen your upper back muscles.

  • Improve your neck posture.

  • Normalize your muscle lengths and resting muscle tension.

  • Resolve any deficit in neural tissue extensibility.

  • Improve your neck proprioception, fine motor control, and balance

  • Improve your ability to cope with everyday activities, plus more stressful ones such as lifting.

  • Minimize your chance of future neck pain or disability.

We strongly suggest that you discuss your specific whiplash injury after a thorough examination from a chiropractor who specialized in a whiplash-associated disorder like Dr. Alykhan Shariff at Whiplash Pain Center.

Your Prognosis

Will you get better? Yes. However, whiplash injuries can take from a few days to several months to rehabilitate.

Just as the symptoms and severity of whiplash can vary from person to person, so can the recovery time. The good news is that research shows the large majority of whiplash sufferers recover with actively guided treatment.

There are many other factors that can impact your recovery, including depression and trauma-related anxiety, so it is important to raise any additional issues with a qualified health professional to give yourself the best chance of recovery.

For more advice, please consult your doctor of chiropractic.

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