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Chiropractic Care for Whiplash

Whiplash sufferer in neck braceWhiplash is not really a disease like arthritis or high blood pressure; but a description of how an injury occurred. When a person suffers a whiplash injury he or she is telling you that their spine, usually their neck, was hurt by being thrown around in a certain manner.


Whiplash usually occurs when the head and neck are unexpectedly or suddenly thrown very quickly in one direction and then rebound in the opposite direction. You might say the head is “whipped around” on the neck.

In an auto rear-end injury the first thing that occurs is the body is thrown forward but the head is thrown backward and the neck is hyper-extended. A whiplash can also result from the sudden stopping of a car where the body remains fairly in place but the head and neck are thrown forward into hyper-flexion.

In almost all whiplash type injuries there is a certain amount of hyper-flexion and hyper-extension. (1) That is because the muscles react to the initial injury by pulling or rebounding in the opposite direction. The rebound can and often does cause injury. (Occasionally a whiplash injury can result from side to side motion of the neck; also called left and right lateral hyper-flexion).(2)

There is more to whiplash then hyper-flexion and hyper-extension. Usually the head is rotated a slight bit, either to the right or left when an accident occurs and this complicates the effects of the injury. (3) Not only is the cervical spine stretched, but is also twisted at the same time. A whiplash type injury doesn’t only occur in automobile accidents. Whiplash injuries may occur as a result of sudden forces to the body as in contact sports like football or soccer, falls, or direct trauma to the skull.


All whiplash injuries are a little different because there are so many things that change from accident to accident: how the driver was facing, his/her age, amount of warning or state of preparedness, the health of their bones, muscles, ligaments and discs, the direction of the impact and the speeds involved. Unfortunately wearing a seat belt offers little protection from a whiplash injury. Headrests, however, which are fairly standard these days, do offer some protection in the hyper-extension aspect of the injury but none for hyper-flexion.


Because of these factors whiplash symptoms may be quite different from person to person; they can range from barely noticeable stiffness to death.

A worse case scenario occurs in a small minority of the cases where there is actual bone fracture and spinal cord damage. The most severe spinal cord damage can cause paralysis and death. In many cases of cord damage there may be dramatic symptoms: inability to move arms and legs, numbness of trunk and extremities and even loss of bladder control.


In the vast majority of whiplash injuries the damage is to the neck’s ligaments, tendons, muscles and vertebral alignment. When a vertebra is mis-aligned, the nerves traveling through its center may be impinged or “pinched”. Misalignment of a vertebra is the main problem of most whiplash injuries. It may go unnoticed because the other symptoms of whiplash may go away after a few weeks and the patient goes on his merry way thinking everything is O.K. Then, possibly years later, the patient begins to experience strange and painful symptoms that he is unable to connect to any event or trauma.


Whiplash symptoms may start as neck soreness or stiffness, perhaps accompanied by a headache immediately or with a few hours of the accident. Along with these symptoms there may be pain and/or numbness, tingling, or a pins-and-needles feeling between the shoulder blades, arm and hand.

Some people may experience ear ringing, dizziness, nausea or even hearing loss. Sometimes the eyes can be affected and there may be pain behind the eyeballs, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, or other visual symptoms. Occasionally, there may be excessive eye tearing or running of the nose. (4,5)


A concussion occurs when the brain is struck against the skull. A violent shaking of the head may cause a concussion, even if the head isn’t struck against the car. There may be headache, restlessness, irritability, insomnia, moodiness, depression and emotional “jitters” that may last for hours or days after the accident.


An individual who has been in an accident should first make sure that there is no life threatening emergency – no broken bones, torn blood vessels or hemorrhage, loss of blood electrolytes, internal organ damage, serious contusions or abrasions, shock and the like. This is the specialty of the medical profession, which does its best work when dealing with trauma or accidental injury. After the patients is out of immediate danger, their spine desperately needs to be checked for health threatening misalignments or spinal nerve stress. It must be emphasized that as a chiropractor I highly approve of rational, logical medical care.

In most whiplash accidents however, medical care falls short. All too often people who have experienced a whiplash injury do little more than live on pain killers, muscle relaxants, and various therapies or even surgery. They need to know that in many cases a visit to our office may totally eliminate the problem safely, quickly and without drugs or surgery.


Any kind of accident or trauma usually causes an atlas misalignment. In other words, the atlas has been forced from its proper position and therefore interferes with the transmission of nerve impulses to and from the computer (brain).(6) Often this is a painless condition but in whiplash injuries to the neck, the misalignment can be quite painful. No amount of pain killers, muscle relaxers, sedatives, or physical therapy can re-align the atlas vertebra and relieve the computer and skeletal system from pressure and interference. What is needed is the chiropractic art: the adjustment that realigns the atlas safely and easily.


Some people may have had a whiplash in the past but now feel pretty good, do they need to see us? Absolutely! The Md.’s may have sent the person home after they took lots of x-rays and found nothing broken, yet the spine may still be structurally unsound. Many times people develop arthritis and disc problems years after the accident and legal matters have been settled, because they never got an atlas check-up and the proper atlas adjustment. Without structural integrity the body will not heal properly. It may become symptom free but will ultimately have problems.


A whiplash injury is a dramatic example of one type of atlas misalignment–the kind produced by accident or trauma or great stress that occurs suddenly. A misalignment may be also caused by emotional stresses and tensions that slowly build up day by day–this may be called micro-trauma. Examples of other forms of micro-trauma are poor posture, bad sleeping positions, week muscles and poor diet. Even extensive dental work may cause neck misalignments.(3) An atlas check-up and examination usually includes a discussion of your history including any injuries, falls, accidents, or situations which may contribute to the misalignment. Please remember that Atlas Specific Correction is not a treatment for whiplash per se. Our role as practitioners of Atlas Specific Correction is to bring about proper body function by “putting the computer back on track” by the correct adjustment. Whether you have been in an accident or not. And if you or some one you know has been involved in a whiplash type accident, the best advice is to get checked as soon as possible to make sure that your body has a chance to heal itself properly and as completely as possible.


1. Neck and Arm Pain by Rene Caliet, M.D. 4th Printing 1979 F.A. Davis C., p 64
2. Ibid. p 69
3. Headaches Aren’t Forever, How Incurable Headaches Can Be Cured by Dr. Gerald Smith. 1986 ; 96 Pub. by International Center for Nutritional Research, 40 Court Street, Newtown, Pa. 18940
4. Chrisman, O.D., Gervais, R. F., “Otologic Manifestations of the Cervical Syndrome” Clin. Orthop., 24 (1962) 34-9
5. Stewart, D.Y. “Current Concepts of the Barre Syndrome or the Posterior Cervical Sympathetic Syndrome”, Clin. Orthop., 24(1962) 40-8.
6. Seletz, E., “Whiplash Injuries: Neurophysiological Basis for Pain and Methods Used for rehabilitation” Journal of the American Medical Association, 168:1750-1755.

  • Jean Rodriguez

    Dear Patients,

    In September 1992 I was involved an automobile accident right here in Livermore. I didn’t think it was too bad since I had no broken bones. The day after the accident, however I felt as though someone had beaten me up, and I will not forget the terrible migraine headache I had. My friend said that I was suffering from whiplash.

    I had heard of Dr. Paiso and I called him and made an appointment. He saw me immediately and treated me. The headaches were the first thing to go away, and my health improved greatly. The funny part

    Read more

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