Auto Accidents

• What Is Whiplash?
What exactly is a whiplash injury and how does chiropractic help relieve the discomfort caused by it? Chiropractic has been a blessing to millions of people who have suffered whiplash injuries.

Whiplash is not a disease but a description of how an injury occurred. The head was “whipped around” on the neck usually front to back, but it can also happen from a side-to-side motion of the neck as well.1 The spine, usually the head and neck, was unexpectedly thrown very quickly in one direction and then rebounded in the opposite direction.

• Where Is The Damage Located When Whiplash Occurs?
Most of whiplash sufferers have misaligned spinal bones (cervical vertebrae) and nerve, joint, ligament, tendon, muscle and disc stress, irritation or damage. Chiropractors have a special name to describe this type of condition—a subluxation, the most common source of pain and discomfort from whiplash injuries.2

• What Is A Subluxation?
A whiplash injury is just one dramatic example of one type of subluxation (nerve interference)—the kind produced by accident or trauma. Subluxations may also be caused by emotional stress and tension that slowly build up day-to-day—micro-trauma. Other causes of subluxations are bad sleeping positions, poor posture, weak muscles, poor diet and even dental work.3 A chiropractic examination often includes a discussion of your personal habits and any injuries, accidents, falls or other situations which may contribute to subluxations.

Chiropractors are the only professionals specially trained to locate and correct your subluxations.

• Whiplash Symptoms—Body & Mind
Right after the accident you may feel some neck soreness or stiffness, perhaps accompanied by a headache. Later, pain and/or numbness, tingling or a pins-and-needles feeling may develop between the shoulder blades, in the arm, hand and/or fingers.

Depending on the nerves affected, you may have ear ringing, dizziness, hearing loss, eye pain, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, nasal problems, low back pain and even internal organ problems.4-6

• Concussion
A concussion may accompany a whiplash. In a concussion the brain is thrown around inside the skull—similar to scrambling an egg without damaging the shell. Concussion symptoms may include headache, restlessness, irritability, insomnia, moodiness, depression and emotional ‘jitters’ that may last for hours, days or months after the accident.9

• Psychological Changes
Those who suffer from whiplash sometimes have memory, thinking, vision and psychological problems7 even if there is no head or brain injury. How could that be? Research has revealed that a neck subluxation can cause decreased blood flow to the brain!8

• Immediately After The Accident
An individual who has been in an accident should first make sure that there is no life-threatening emergency—broken bones, bleeding or hemorrhage, serious contusions or abrasions, internal organ damage, shock or other damage. This is the specialty of emergency medicine yet too many patients are released from medical care after an injury even though they are still not well. Although the X-rays, MRI or CT scans and other tests may have found “nothing,” the patient’s structural system has not been analyzed for subluxations. They may develop arthritis and disc problems years after the accident (and after the legal settlements) because a chiropractor was not consulted right away.

After the patient’s condition has stabilized, it is essential that the accident victim’s spine be checked
by a doctor of chiropractic for subluxations.10

No amount of drugs or therapies will give the patient what the doctor of chiropractic can give: the adjustment which realigns the spinal column and structural system safely and easily, without drugs or surgery.

• Chronic Whiplash Problems
Some whiplash victims heal rapidly and yet others may suffer long-term chronic pain and impairment. From 50% to as much as 88% of sufferers may continue to experience pain and some amount of disability for many years after the accident.11

• Chiropractic Care For Whiplash Victims
Chiropractic effectiveness with whiplash sufferers has long been observed and reported in professional journals.12

Chiropractic’s superiority was noted in a study published in a major medical journal when, after the authors interviewed 93 patients, they concluded: “Whiplash injuries are common. Chiropractic is the only proven effective treatment in chronic cases.”14

In one study, 41 male and female patients (ages 17-67) with whiplash injuries were placed under chiropractic care. Their pain levels were significantly lower after 20 office visits.13
• In Conclusion
Any accident may cause subluxations—structural misalignments and irritated or damaged nerves. If you’ve ever been involved in an accident, whiplash or otherwise, no matter how long ago, please see your doctor of chiropractic to ensure that you have really healed as completely as possible. Trauma or injury from many years ago may be responsible for seemingly unrelated health problems suffered today.


1. Cailliet R. Neck and Arm Pain. Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis Co. 1979:64.
2. Lord WM, Barnsley L, Wallis BJ, Bogduk N. Chronic cervical zygopophysial joint pain after whiplash: a placebo-controlled prevalence study. Spine. 1996;21:1737-1745.
3. Smith GH. Headaches Aren’t Forever: How Incurable Headaches Can
Be Cured. Newtown, PA: Int’l Ctr for Nutritional Research. 1986:96.
4. Brown S. Effect of whiplash injury on accommodation. Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology. 2003;31(5):424-429.
5. Stewart DY. Current concepts of the ‘Barre Syndrome’ or the ‘Posterior Cervical Sympathetic Syndrome’. Clin. Orthop. 1962;24:40-48.
6. Burcon M. Cervical protocol to reduce vertebral subluxation in ten subjects with Meniere’s: a case series. JVSR. June 2, 2008;1-8.
7. Di Stefano G, Radanov BP. Course of attention and memory after common whiplash. Acta Neurol Scand. 1995;91:346-352.
8. Otte A, Ettlin TM, Nitzsche, EU et al. PET and SPECT in whiplash syndrome: a new approach to a forgotten brain? J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1997;63:368-372.
9. Bohnen N et al. Late outcome of mild head injury: results from
a controlled postal survey. Brain Injury. 1994;8(8):701-708.
10. Seletz E. Whiplash injuries: neurophysiological basis for pain and methods used for rehabilitation. JAMA. 1958;168:1750-1755.
11. Squires B, Gargan MF, Bannister GC. Soft tissue injuries of the cervical spine: a 15-year follow-up. J of Bone and Joint Surgery (British Edition). 1996;(70B):955-957.
12. McCoy HG, McCoy M. A multiple parameter assessment of whiplash injury patients undergoing subluxation based chiropractic care:
a retrospective study. JVSR. 1997;1(3):51-61.
13. Davis C. Chiropractic treatment in acute whiplash injuries: grades
I & II. JVSR. May 19, 2008;1-3.
14. Khan S, Cook J, Gargan M, Bannister G. A symptomatic classification of whiplash injury and the implications for treatment. The Journal of Orthopaedic Medicine. 1999;21(1).

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