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Whiplash is one of the most common reasons why people begin chiropractic care, with symptoms affecting the neck and shoulders, and sometimes taking weeks or months to become noticeable. In 75% of patients, those symptoms will last more than 6 months—can you imagine trying to live one week with that kind of discomfort, let alone six months?

In order to visualize what happens to your head in a collision, you just need to think about a ball which is placed on top of a spring. If you’re involved in a rear end collision, your torso will be propelled forward because of the impact, while your head will tend to lag behind due to inertia. In such instances the head often reaches what is known as ‘hyper-extension’ before being jerked forward by the rest of the body. In the vast majority of cases where this occurs people will sustain neck injuries. The most common neck injury sustained because of a collision is called whiplash, or in medical terms, cervical hyperextension.

On average, one suffering from whiplash will miss 8 weeks of work due to pain and discomfort. While most of that pain will be felt in muscle tissues, it’s the areas that don’t hurt that should get the most amount of attention, like the structure supporting all of those sore muscles. The cervical spine protects nerves that can cause numbness and tingling through the arms and hands, create headaches and fatigue, and even affect how your lungs are regulated. That’s not even addressing the long term affects– each of these problems will only get worse if left untreated, making it more likely that more severe symptoms will pop up.

Contrary to what you may have heard in the past, chiropractic care has shown itself to be one of the most effective treatments out there. Of course a chiropractor will only ever begin treatment once a patient has undergone a complete examination which in most cases also includes x-rays. The chiropractor’s primary goal will be to re-align the vertebrae, and also to maintain the alignment so that the delicate tissues which surround the spinal cord have sufficient time to heal. One should bear in mind that if the vertebrae are not aligned as they should be, the tissues will continue to heal even though the vertebrae are misaligned.

Apart from making chiropractic adjustments, the chiropractor will also often recommend therapeutic massage together with physical therapy. When used in conjunction with each other, these help to enhance blood flow, which in turn helps to promote the healing process. Any whiplash injury can take up to twelve months to heal completely because it’s essentially a sprain involving several ligaments and muscles. Because of this, it’s essential for a patient to follow the chiropractor’s instructions until such time their neck has healed completely. Even though it can take so long for the injury to heal, that doesn’t mean a patient will be in pain for that length of time. Lastly but not least, patients need to realize that the tissues and ligaments may not have their full strength even after complete recovery.

(Thanks to Dr. Ryan Weisgerber for their help with this article)

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