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Whiplash - A Quick Guide

What is it?

Whiplash is caused by sudden hyperflexion (forward) and hyperextension (backwards) movement of the neck. This kind of quick movement stretches the soft tissues, such as muscles, tendons and ligaments, in your neck beyond their usual normal limits, resulting in damage of these structures.

How is classified?

The Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD) grading system

WAD I: Neck pain + stiffness or tenderness only. No physical signs.

II: Neck pain + musculoskeletal signs (reduced range of motion)

III: Neck pain + neurological signs (numbness or tingling, weakness, decreased or absent reflexes)

IV: Neck pain + fracture or dislocation of the vertebrae in the neck.

It can be difficult to tell which grade you have, but the most common grade of whiplash is WAD II

How does it happen?

Most people associate whiplash with car accidents, but it can also happen in contact sports, rollercoasters and even head banging too hard at concerts. It can basically happen in any situation where abrupt head movement is involved.

What are the signs and symptoms?

The following are some signs that you are experiencing whiplash.

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Jaw pain
  • Vertigo

How long does it last for?

This answer is different for every person, but typically the average human recovers within 6 months. That being said, it may take years to recover for those with prolonged symptoms.

It depends on the severity of the injury, how soon your you start treatment, how well you stick to your treatment, if you’ve had a whiplash injury before and whether you have any pre-existing conditions.

How do you treat it?

Easy, the 10-10-10 Protocol.

Initial treatment of whiplash should consist of 10 minutes of ice application, removal for 10 minutes and reapplication for another 10 minutes. Then repeat.

A structural chiropractor can provide the proper treatment and exercises to restore function and get you back to your normal daily activities sooner. Delayed treatment may hinder overall recovery time, so the sooner you start treatment, the better!