Many studies have been conducted in the past decade to determine the efficacy of chiropractic for whiplash injuries. No conventional medical treatment has been shown to be effective in established chronic whiplash injury patients. However, high success rates in the recovery of these types of patients has been demonstrated through chiropractic care. In the Tustin, Santa Ana, and Irvine areas at Orange Coast Chiropractic Group.

A recent study published in the Journal of Orthopedic Medicineclearly established that whiplash patients had a good outcome with chiropractic care.

Of the patients with neck pain and restricted neck range of motion with no neurologic deficits, 72% had a good outcome.

Of the patients with neurological symptoms and restricted range of motion, including tingling, numbness and parasthesias (abnormal sensation such as prickling or burning) in the extremities, 94% had a good outcome.

The final group had severe neck pain and pain radiating to the extremities. These patients often described blackouts, nausea, chest pain and visual dysfunction. 27% of these patients had a good outcome with chiropractic care.

This study provides new evidence that chiropractic care is effective in the treatment of whiplash patients.

SOURCE: Woodward MN, Cook CH, Gargan MF, Bannister GC; Chiropractic Treatment of Chronic Whiplash Injuries; Journal of Orthopedic Medicine, 1999; 21 (1): 22-24.


A person's first inclination during an auto accident is to remain loose and relaxed, but according to research, contracted muscles protect the bones, discs, ligaments and nerves in a collision.

Dr. Lawrence Nordhoff, Jr., Accident Reconstructionist, recommends the following:

Brace Yourself: Tighten up and brace yourself firmly at the 10 O'clock and 2 O'clock positions on the steering wheel, keeping your wrists flat to prevent injuries.
Sit Straight: Face forward and sit against the back of your seat, pressing your head firmly against the headrest.
On average, a person will be in a car collision once every 10 years, according to Nordhoff's studies. He advises to take these precautions:

Watch your rear view mirror:This keeps you aware of oncoming collisions and more aware of your surroundings.
Buy a big car.
Sit at least six inches away from the steering wheel: This prevents injury to your chest from airbags.
Set the headrest properly:It should make contact just above your ears.
Wear seat belts correctly:Never wear the shoulder harness behind your back.
Don't pump anti-lock brakes: Hold them to the floor to prevent your car from flipping over.
SOURCE:"How to Reduce Risk of Injury In Car Crashes," Investor's Business Daily, Vol. 17, No. 122.

Chiropractic Treatments for Whiplash

Because each individual case of whiplash is different, it is not possible to generalize about the chiropractic whiplash treatment.

The appropriate chiropractic treatment is unique to each whiplash injury and is directed at the primary dysfunctions detected during thechiropractic exam.

However, chiropractors commonly employ different chiropractic treatments for whiplash, often including:

  • Manipulation
  • Muscle relaxation and/or stimulation
  • Various exercises
  • Ergonomic and lifestyle changes.

This article explains when, why and how chiropractors may employ these whiplash treatments for neck pain, shoulder pain, back pain and other related symptoms.

Chiropractic Manipulation for Whiplash

The primary whiplash treatment for joint dysfunction, spinal manipulation involves the chiropractor gently moving the involved joint into the direction in which it is restricted.

Article continues below

Also known as a chiropractic adjustment, spinal manipulation may involve the application of a short thrust in that direction. In many cases, instead of a thrust, a slow mobilizing movement is used by the chiropractor.

In This Article:

Muscle Relaxation or Stimulation as Whiplash Treatments

The chiropractor's primary whiplash treatment for related muscle dysfunction, muscle relaxation and/or stimulation consist of gentle stretches to the muscle that has excessive tension or repeated contractions of the muscle that is inhibited.

If the muscle is very tight, a more vigorous stretch may be applied by the chiropractor. Gentle finger pressure techniques may be applied to trigger points to relieve the pain associated with the tight muscles.

McKenzie Exercises and Stabilization/Sensorimotor Activities

Chiropractors may employ different types of exercises, including McKenzie exercises and/or stabilization and sensorimotor exercises, to help treat patients with whiplash injuries.

McKenzie exercises are specifically designed to reduce disc derangement related to a whiplash injury. They consist of simple movements that are initially done in the office but make for an easy transition to self-care at home. McKenzie exercises also help the patient take an active role in his or her own recovery.

Stabilization and sensorimotor exercise approaches are designed to correct faulty movement patterns in routine activities and everyday life. Such whiplash treatment trains the nervous system to better coordinate and control movement patterns, and improves the ability of the neck muscles to maintain stability of the neck.

These exercises are designed to help in a major trauma, such as a fall or whiplash during a motor vehicle accident, or in "micro trauma" from simple things such as being jostled in a crowd, playing sports or performing occupational or home jobs that require physical effort.

Chiropractic Advice on Ergonomic and Lifestyle Changes

These whiplash treatment suggestions stress improvements for performing everyday activities with minimal strain to the body. The chiropractic advice addresses factors in an individual’s work, home or recreational activities that perpetuate the dysfunctions that result from the whiplash accident.

Additionally, spine care professionals at the chiropractic clinic may teach the patient better "use of self" and, if necessary, stress reduction methods to help chiropractic problems.

Whiplash Treatment in Chiropractic Care

The whiplash treatment plan developed by the chiropractor for each specific problem may include one or more of these approaches and may involve others as well.

In addition to his or her whiplash treatment plan, the doctor of chiropractic might give a referral to another health professional, such as a medical specialist, if it is deemed appropriate.

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