Diagnosing and Treating Whiplash

Whiplash happens when a strong force rocks the head back and forth quickly. The way most patients experience whiplash is in a car accident. Other sudden traumatic incidences like sports injuries or physical abuse can also cause whiplash.


The force that causes whiplash is great enough to rock the head beyond the normal range of motion. This strains soft tissues. Because whiplash involves the soft tissues of the neck area, it won’t appear on X-rays or other imaging tests. After a doctor rules out other injuries with image tests, he or she will make a diagnosis.


But what happens after the diagnosis is key. If a patient does not receive adequate care after a traumatic whiplash event, the symptoms can linger for a long time, diminishing their quality of life. They may struggle to perform basic tasks, and they run the risk of further injury.


How the Doctor Diagnoses Whiplash


Some fender benders are minor, with little damage to the car. Some car accidents are major. Whiplash can occur with both. Often a person does not feel the symptoms of whiplash right away. They may not seek medical attention until days later.


After the doctor runs imaging tests to rule out more serious fractures and breaks, he will also do a physical exam and ask about the circumstances around the injury. In some cases, a doctor will order a positron emission tomography (PET) scan to rule out a brain injury.


Traditional Treatment for Whiplash


The right treatment for whiplash is critical. Often people think that simply taking some over-the-counter pain medication is enough, and the symptoms will go away on their own. Unfortunately, some people find that the symptoms linger.


It is common for doctors to prescribe prescription pain medication for moderate to severe whiplash symptoms. They may also suggest a lidocaine injection or muscle relaxants. Giving patients a foam collar to wear is not as common, although some doctors will still recommend it for the first few days after the injury.


Chiropractic Treatment for Whiplash


A chiropractor will use a comprehensive exam to determine a course of treatment for a whiplash patient. Each patient’s injury and level of discomfort are different. Chiropractors will often employ a combination of therapies to treat the symptoms.


They may perform spinal manipulation to realign the spinal column. This is often combined with soft tissue massage therapy and rehabilitation exercises. Specialized movements known as McKenzie exercises can help restore proper movement and stability to the neck. The chiropractor can show a patient how to transition to performing these movements at home to continue therapy for long-term health.


Don’t Underestimate It


So many people underestimate their whiplash injury. They think that a few days of rest is enough. But for many, a seemingly mild injury can turn into long-lasting, nagging pain and discomfort. ReAlign Chiropractic in Chicago, Illinois, can help you develop a plan of care to achieve relief.


Learn more about diagnosing & treating whiplash, contact ReAlign Chiropractic in Chicago, IL at (773) 917-0900 today to schedule an appointment.