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Whiplash is a type of injury to the neck that occurs when the head is suddenly moved forward and then backward or vice versa. This type of motion causes damage to the muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissues in the neck.

Diagnosis of whiplash is typically made through a review of your medical history, a focused physical examination, and imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI. Chiropractic care can be an effective treatment option for patients with whiplash.

On this page, we will cover the causes of whiplash as well as the most common symptoms. After that, we will decipher the scientific evidence that proves the effectiveness of chiropractic care in the management of whiplash.

What are the causes of whiplash?

The causes of whiplash are diverse and include any event that inflicts a sudden movement of the head back and forth. Learning more about these causes can help you prevent them in the future.

Here are the most common causes of whiplash:

Car accidents

Car accidents are the leading cause of whiplash, especially those involving rear-end collisions. The impact of the collision causes the head to be thrown forward and then backward, damaging the neck and surround structures.

Sports injuries

Whiplash can also occur as a result of sports injuries, particularly in contact sports, such as football or hockey. A blow to the head or a collision with another player makes the head shake violently, leading to whiplash and possibly other injuries.

Physical abuse

Sadly, whiplash can be the result of physical abuse, such as being on the receiving end of a punch. The sudden and violent movement of the head can cause damage to the neck and spinal cord.


Whiplash can occur as a result of falls, such as from a bike, skateboard, or a significant height.

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions, such as dystonia, can also cause repetitive and uncontrollable movements, leading to whiplash.

What are the signs and symptoms of whiplash?

Neck pain

The most common symptom of whiplash is pain and stiffness in the neck. This pain ranges from mild to severe. You may also experience a reduced range of motion in the neck.


Whiplash can also cause headaches, particularly at the base of the skull.

Dizziness and vertigo

Oftentimes, patients complain of dizziness and vertigo, which can make it difficult to maintain balance and coordination. This may be the result of damage to the inner ear and its connection to the brain.


Whiplash may cause feelings of fatigue and lethargy (i.e., a general lack of energy). Researchers believe this is the body’s response to the injury and the strain it puts on the body.

Arm pain and numbness

Pain, tingling, and numbness in the arms and shoulders are commonly reported in whiplash patients.

Blurred vision

Blurred vision follows the inflammation in the eyes or damage to the muscles that control eye movement.

Difficulty concentrating and memory

In some cases, whiplash can also cause difficulty with concentration, memory, and cognitive processes. The trauma to the brainstem may be responsible for these symptoms.

Emotional distress

Finally, whiplash can cause some emotional symptoms, including anxiety and depression. The physical pain, disruption of daily activities, and the uncertainty of recovery can all contribute to these symptoms.

It is important to note that some symptoms may not appear immediately after the injury. Some may take days or even weeks to appear. Therefore, we recommend that you consult with a chiropractor shortly after the injury to prevent complications.

The following section will cover a few complications that may occur when you do not treat whiplash.

What are the complications of whiplash?

Chronic neck pain

One of the most common complications of whiplash is chronic neck pain. This can persist long after the initial injury has healed. Chronic pain greatly impacts a person’s quality of life and may require ongoing treatment.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The development of PTSD is common with whiplash. This is often the result of a traumatic event, such as a car accident. Symptoms of PTSD can include anxiety, depression, and flashbacks.

Cervical radiculopathy

Whiplash can also cause cervical radiculopathy, which is a condition that occurs when a nerve in the neck gets compressed or damaged. This can cause pain, weakness, and numbness in the arms and shoulders.


Untreated whiplash may eventually lead to fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbances.

Neck instability

Neck instability due to whiplash may cause chronic pain, limited range of motion, and difficulty with day-to-day activities.


Chronic symptoms of pain and headaches may lead to depression.  

How does chiropractic care help with whiplash

Chiropractic care plays an important role in the management of whiplash. Chiropractors often use a combination of techniques, such as spinal manipulation, mobilization, soft tissue therapy, and exercise therapy, to help alleviate pain and improve mobility in patients with whiplash.

According to research, chiropractors can help patients with whiplash recover rapidly and improve their symptoms. For instance, a 2018 study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that patients with acute whiplash who received chiropractic care experienced significantly greater improvement in neck pain and disability compared to those who received usual medical care.

Another study demonstrated that patients with chronic whiplash who received chiropractic care also experienced an improvement in symptoms of pain and disability. Chiropractic care improved the patients’ quality of life.

Moreover, chiropractic care may be beneficial for addressing other complications of whiplash, such as headaches, vertigo, and arm pain.

Takeaway message

There is a ton of scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of chiropractic care in the treatment of whiplash. This gives patients an additional option to manage their symptoms without the need to take pharmacological drugs.

We hope that this article helped you understand how chiropractic care can help you deal with whiplash and its associated symptoms.

If you have any specific questions about Whiplash or how we can help you, please do not hesitate to reach out to us via the contact us page!