Treatment of Whiplash

Neck pain, jaw pain and headaches due to whiplash can be unfortunate consequences of being in a motor vehicle accident.  And although wearing a seatbelt can be life saving, you can still feel very shaken up and sore.  In this post your Guelph chiropractors will discuss the subcategories of whiplash disorders, self-care tips and the treatment of whiplash.

Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD) refers to the type of injury which occurs from either a sudden acceleration or deceleration of the head and neck in relation to the rest of the body.  WAD is often due to a car accident and can result in the soft tissues of the neck and upper back, including the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joint capsules, and even nerves to become injured and irritated.  In rare cases bones may be fractured.

WAD can be divided into four categories:

WAD 1 – No symptoms following accident or only minor interference with normal activities of daily living.

WAD 2 – Musculoskeletal signs and substantial interference with normal activities of daily living e.g. tightness and tenderness of muscles and joints, decreased neck ranges of motion due to pain and stiffness.

WAD 3 – Neurological signs of further injury e.g. decreased or absent deep tendon reflexes, weakness.

WAD 4 – Major structural pathology e.g. neck fracture or vertebral dislocation.

For the remainder of this post we will focus on WAD I and WAD II  which are the most common and least serious of the whiplash associated disorders.

What you need to know for a speedy recovery:

Although it may be painful, most WAD injuries are not serious and will have a full recovery.

Headaches and soreness in the neck and upper back are common.  They may appear immediately or even a few days following the initial incident.  It is important to be assessed by your chiropractor soon after your injury so that they can determine if there are any functional impairments.

Maintaining your activities of daily living is important to help with a speedy recovery and avoid longer term chronic pain.

Wearing a neck brace is discouraged for WAD 1 and 2 as it tends to limit the normal motions which actually help your body’s natural healing course.

A small amount of rest may be okay but shouldn’t exceed 1-2 days.  As it is with a neck brace, muscles and joints stiffen up more if they’re not in use.

Returning to work as soon as possible is encouraged.

If you work at a job that requires a lot of sitting avoid staying still for too long and take frequent breaks to move around (also see previous post on Workstation Warriors).

Cold compresses such as an ice pack or gel pack applied to the area can help to reduce pain and inflammation when used within the first few days after the onset.

Chiropractic care for the treatment of whiplash can be very relieving after an accident.  Treatment options at our Guelph chiropractic clinic may include:

Joint mobilization or adjustment

Electrotherapeutic modalities

Trigger point

Muscle release therapy



With whiplash our goal as chiropractors is to decrease stiffness of the joints and muscles in the neck and back, restore proper range of motion, provide pain relief, and return you to pre-accident status.  As always, if you have had a traumatic incident it is advised that you be assessed by a health professional.  If you would like more information on treatment of whiplash or how to deal with a motor vehicle accident injury, contact Guelph chiropractors Dr. Mark Kubert or Dr. Julie Gill at Clear Path Chiropractic Health Centre in downtown Guelph.

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