Whiplash – Understanding the Impact and Recovery Process

Whiplash is an injury that occurs when your body is suddenly forced backwards and forward. That’s about the size of it. It’s the most common injury during an automobile accident and is one of the leading triggers for chronic neck and back pain. While a little fender bender may not seem like a big deal, new research has shown that even small accidents can result in significant injuries.


What is whiplash anyway?

The violent forces that occur during a car accident can cause damage to your spinal discs, ligaments, tendons, and bones-even at “low” speeds. Most of these injuries happen because your head is quickly whipped backwards and forward.

This rapid back-and-forth motion just isn’t what the spine is designed to handle, and frequently results in ligament tearing and spinal disc injuries. Symptoms such as neck pain, back pain, headaches, confusion, and even depression can all indicate that you’ve suffered a whiplash injury.

One of the most problematic aspects of whiplash is that in many cases, you may not immediately notice any pain, either because of a spike in adrenaline during the accident or because the actual magnitude of the injury isn’t that great. For many people, these symptoms may take hours or even a few days to develop after the initial shock of the car accident wears off – and sometimes it can be weeks before a minor, but unpleasant injury to the ligaments, spinal discs, muscles, and facet joints starts to be noticeable. Don’t forget that the neck is one of the most complex and hard-working structures in the Human body – it doesn’t take a huge injury to result in some significant discomfort!

For this reason, it’s smart to get a complete evaluation after a car accident to minimise your risk of long-term pain. Getting the right care at the right time can make a big difference in your ability to heal quickly and avoid long-term chronic pain. While car accidents are the most frequent cause of whiplash, remember that even small accidents can cause injuries, so if you’ve been involved in any sort of incident which involved a rapid change of motion of your neck it’s a good idea to be proactive and take care of yourself!


How Chiropractic Care Can Help

Chiropractic care offers a non-invasive approach to managing whiplash injuries. We should stress that Chiropractic is not an appropriate treatment for severe pain, or any situation when you feel you may have been knocked unconscious – in this case, seek medical help right away. If, however, you’re left with nagging neck pain, stiffness or a sense of being “off balance” after an accident, we can probably help you recover more quickly. Through gentle adjustments, chiropractors can realign the spine, reducing pressure on affected discs and nerves. Additionally, soft tissue therapies such as massage and even just targeted stretching can alleviate muscle tension and promote healing in damaged ligaments and tendons.

Critically, by addressing the root cause of the injury, chiropractic care aims to not only alleviate immediate symptoms but also prevent long-term complications such as chronic neck and back pain which can often result from poorly managed whiplash injuries.


How Long Does Whiplash Last?

Symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, back pain, headaches, dizziness, or confusion—none of these sound like a good time – So, if you’ve been involved in a car accident, you may wonder how long these symptoms will last. The good news is that with a proper evaluation and early treatment, you have a high likelihood of feeling much better within a matter of weeks.

One of the most common injuries associated with whiplash is ligament tearing. Ligaments are short, tough bands of connective tissue that hold together the bones in your neck and the joints of your body. If these ligaments are torn, it can cause neck pain and discomfort. The average time it takes a ligament to heal is about six weeks with the proper care and treatment – this sounds like a long time, however the acute inflammatory phase of injury (the really painful part) lasts more like 72 hours – after which, the repair phase takes you up to that 6-week mark. Hopefully, you can see why it’s critical to take care of yourself after this kind of injury – there’s quite possibly a period of 5 weeks there in which the pain is reduced, but your body is still busy healing.


Had an Accident? Give us a call!

After an accident, the most important step you can take is to invest in a full spinal evaluation.  Just because you’re not in serious pain (and remember, if you are, seek medical help!) doesn’t mean you haven’t suffered some damage. A thorough chiropractic evaluation is a great way to discover what type of injuries you’ve sustained and, most importantly- how to get well. You would be surprised how many people prefer to shrug off a “small” accident and push their symptoms aside – while that may save you a little time today, it’s likely to result in much more pain down the road!



Blog by / April 6, 2024 / Blog

Dr. Paul Irvine is a doctor of chiropractic who graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of NSW and in 1996, attained his Master of Chiropractic degree from Macquarie University in Australia. He practised in North Sydney for 5 years before he left Australia to travel and practise in the UK. He joined Complete Chiropractic in 2003 (est 1999) and took over the clinic in 2007