Whiplash is an older diagnosis that was used to summarize the injuries, primarily to the neck, that are sustained in a motor vehicle accident when the head moves back into hyper-extension and then forward into hyperflexion. This term is rarely used anymore because it is less of a diagnosis and more of a description of what happens during a motor vehicle collision when the body is accelerated in one direction and the head is “whipped” in the opposite direction. For a while physicians were using the diagnosis of Cervical Acceleration-Deceleration or CAD. However, this too is more a descriptive term of what happens during the accident than an accurate diagnosis, so it too has fallen out of use.

In essence, the whipping motion of the head on the body causes tissues, both ligament and muscle, to tear as the muscles try to splint to slow down the movement of the head. (If you have ever wondered why drunk drivers sustain less injury in an accident it is because his or her nervous system is so impaired from the alcohol that the muscles do not react). This injury is now commonly diagnosed as a sprain/strain injury of the neck. Sometimes the force of the accident can be so great that bones in the neck are fractured; that is why it is important that we x-ray motor vehicle patients so we can rule out serious injury. Also, be on the lookout for symptoms other than pain: dizziness, headaches, memory loss, ringing in the ears, vision changes, balance disturbances, etc.

Chiropractic treatment is very successful in the management of most injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident (MVA). Not only does the treatment help reduce inflammation, healing times, and pain, but it also prevents loss of range of motion.

If you have recently been in a MVA, it is important that you get treatment right away, even if it is not from this clinic, to ensure that you reach your maximum healing potential. Even if you do not currently have any pain, you should come in because sometimes it can take a few days or even a week for the symptoms to present and the longer you wait, the longer your recovery may take. Remember, you do not need a referral to come see a chiropractor for MVA-related injuries, and in most cases, insurance covers 100% of treatment costs if the treatment is sought soon after the accident.

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that this information is only for general knowledge; it is not to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment.