The answer to this question is not a simple one as many people tend to associate any type of neck pain with having whiplash. The first thing is to find out is whether or not you have whiplash.

Is it Whiplash or a Pain in the Neck? To make sure, let’s define whiplash.

Whiplash is defined as an injury to the neck, by moving the head forward and then backward in a rapid fashion that places strain on the neck muscles and ligaments. Whiplash is most common when the victim has been rear-ended, or hit from behind by another vehicle; but can also result from physical abuse (such as shaken baby syndrome) or contact sports. The symptoms of whiplash vary and include the following:

  • Restricted joint movement in spine or limbs
  • Displacement of spinal discs, also known as a herniation, which causes sharp pain down one or both arms; it also can create small tears in spinal tissue and damage the nervous system, which is followed by numbness, tingling and muscle weakness
  • Chronic pain in the neck area
  • Cognitive dysfunction that may include difficulty concentrating

When to See a Chiropractor

If you have unrelated neck pain that persists for a period of time or you experience the following:

  • A shooting pain through one or both arms
  • Tingling or numb feeling in one or both arms or hands
  • Inability to touch chin to your chest

You would be best served by visiting a chiropractor directly to make an accurate diagnose of what is causing the underlying problem. If you are not having any of the symptoms or find your problem is relieved after changing positions, it may be the result of poor posture.

The Severity of Whiplash

For some, neck pain resulting from an accident may be alleviated with ice and a light brace. Other times, the symptoms may temporarily disappear or on the other hand you experience complications such as:

  • Pain in the jaw
  • Significant damage to ligaments, discs, nerves or joints
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Nausea
  • Irritability or unable to concentrate

If any of these symptoms persist, you should see a chiropractor so that x-ray and/or other tests may be performed to determine if there is an underlying problem.

Seeing the Chiropractor

The primary objective of the chiropractor is to use restorative adjustment to correct the spine and discs so that they are aligned properly. Adjustments also  reduce muscle spasms and rebuild muscle strength with the aid of rehabilitative therapy and exercises.

The chiropractor will first focus on evaluating the entire spine.  Range of motion, identification of thermal irregularities, evaluation of muscle spasm patterns, and orthopedic and neurologic workups help to identify  disc injuries and other hidden causes of the presenting symptoms.  Other factors to be noted are walking (gait), posture and spinal alignment. A comprehensive exam provides an understanding of the individuals body mechanics. X-rays and /or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used along with the patient medical history to determine whether you can or should be treated.

Some cases of whiplash may only require ice and heat therapy to reduce inflammation and relax the muscles, respectively. Non-medicinal treatment may include acupuncture, massage or Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).

If you or someone you know may have experienced any or all of symptom described, then you may want to share this information with them or give our office a call to make an appointment.


Mayo Clinic Diseases and Conditions homepage (2011) Retrieved August 30, 2011; from

Mayo Clinic Diseases and Conditions homepage (2011) Retrieved August 30, 2011; from

American Chiropractic Association Patient Health and Wellness Tips (2011) Retrieved August 30, 2011; from