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Whiplash Unveiled: The Science, Symptoms, and Solutions


whiplash injury, headaches, neck pain, car accident, whiplash symptoms
Common Whiplash Injury


Whiplash Unveiled: The Science, Symptoms, and Solutions


Over 6 million car accidents happen per year in America. Whiplash injuries are estimated to happen in at least 25% of those cases. 38% of people with chronic neck pain believe it began with a car accident.


Whiplash involves a forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip; this can happen in any direction. Whiplash can happen due to sports injuries or other traumas, but is most commonly associated with head-on collisions and fender-benders while driving.


With the most common whiplash, the head goes forward, stops, and then goes backward, making a movement similar to that of a whip.


Common issues associated with whiplash are muscle strains and ligament sprains in the neck, neck soreness and pain, stiffness, and headaches. Cervicogenic headaches are a common headache associated with a whiplash injury.


The most common symptoms associated with a whiplash injury are neck pain and stiffness, worsening of pain with neck movement, loss of range of motion in the neck, headaches (most often starting at the base of the skull), tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back or arms, tingling or numbness in the arms, fatigue, and dizziness. 25% of individuals have shoulder pain after an auto collision.


Some people can have neurological symptoms with whiplash injuries, as well. These can include dizziness, ringing in the ears, irritability, sleep disturbance, or difficulty concentrating and memory problems. Some people also experience depression.

Whiplash injuries that involve the shoulders, arms and hands, are likely caused by inflammation and pressure from muscle spasms which can cause irritation of the nerves to these places as they exit the spine.


Whiplash injury symptoms will often times go away on their own, but sometimes, symptoms can persist for years. Scar tissue adhesions in joints after a whiplash injury can decrease range of motion and change the positional input into the brain.


Even in small collisions under of 15-20 mph, the effect of the whip-like action can still cause damage.


It is nearly impossible to know who will experience worse symptoms with whiplash, however, known risks for increased severity of symptoms include being an older adult, a history of whiplash injuries, existing low back or neck pain, or having a high-speed injury. Generally, the worse the symptoms were initially, the worse the outcome may be for the individual.

An exam for a whiplash injury will include range of motion testing, muscle testing, deep tendon reflex testing, and orthopedic tests. In some cases, an X-ray or MRI may be ordered to rule out fractures, dislocations, and major tissue damage.


The good news for you is that according to a study published in 2010, chiropractic adjusting can help you with the lost range of motion and the pain that can be associated with your whiplash injury. By maintaining and improving the range of motion in the neck as you are healing, you decrease the risk of scare tissue developing in a way which decreases your range of motion long-term, thus improving your functional outcomes and quality of life overall.


If you have had fender benders or car accidents in the past, and you currently experience low back or neck pain, contact Alameda Chiropractic & Ergonomics at 510-671-1716 to make an appointment with so we can help you build a better foundation for a healthy life.

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