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A Patient's Guide to Whiplash

At Kleefeld Chiropractic patient's frequently present with whiplash type injuries.  Whiplash is defined as a sudden extension (backward movement) and flexion (forward movement) of the neck.  Both rear-end and side-impact motor vehicle collisions are the #1 cause of whiplash.


With motor vehicle accident on impact there is a sudden and forceful whipping of the neck back and forth.  This results in traumatic tearing of the soft tissues most importantly the muscles and ligaments.  This creates considerable inflammation resulting in pain either immediately or within 48 hours.  In addition to neck pain when the disc between the vertebra is also damaged, patient's frequently experience numbness and tingling of the arms secondary to nerve injury.  Headaches are also common sometimes associated with nausea.

woman with neck pain


On examination, Dr. Kleefeld typically finds significant muscle spasm secondary to over stretching of the tissues on impact.  When muscles and ligaments tear there is a release of chemicals that are very irritating to the local tissues including the nerves causing reflex spasm and a locking of the spinal joints. Consequently, range of motion of the neck is reduced resulting infurther disability and pain.  Because pain complaints are associated with trauma, imaging studies including x-rays, CT scan and/or MRI scan may be necessary.

Risk Factors

At Kleefeld Chiropractic we have found that the following risk factors can extend or affect recovery.  These include having the head rotated one way or the other at time of impact.  History of previous rear impact injury.  Being unaware of the impending impact.  Collision with a vehicle larger than yours.


Treatment typically recommended by Dr. Kleefeld includes:

  • Spinal manipulation of involved joint dysfunction to restore normal motion
  • Ultrasound over to reduce inflammation and minimize adhesions
  • Interferential current to reduce muscle spasm, swelling and pain
  • Massage therapy if painful trigger points are evidenced on examination
  • Customized exercise program as recovery allows
  • Homecare measures such as ice and heat as indicated
  • Medication management
  • Activity modification initially as pain parameters allow
  • Normalization of activities of daily living as pain complaints settle.
  • Specialty consultation and x-rays if symptoms persist
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