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What is a whiplash injury?

Whiplash is a generic term for injuries most commonly associated with rear-end vehicle collisions, although frontal or side impacts, as well as other types of accidents, may produce similar injuries. In a rear-impact collision, the following sequence occurs:

  • The body is propelled forward.

  • The head remains in its original position; then, before the neck muscles can relax to allow motion, the head is abruptly moved backward, often farther than its standard range of motion.

  • A rebound action occurs when the body stops suddenly and momentum forces the head and neck forward.

The injury itself is usually a tear/stress of soft tissues in the neck caused by sudden, forceful movement. Symptoms may occur immediately, or the injury may not be recognized until hours or even days after the trauma occurred.

What are the symptoms of a whiplash injury?

A whiplash injury victim may experience one or more of a variety of symptoms: muscle spasms, cervical spine pain, headaches, shoulder/neck pain, nausea, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, dizziness, concussion, limited range of motion, numbness, or reduced ability to hold the head erect. Again, none of these symptoms may show up immediately after the accident; there may be a gap of anywhere from several hours to a few days before anything unusual is experienced. The extent of the injury depends upon not only the severity of the actual accident, but of any potentially complicating factors experienced before the accident, such as a previous spinal injury or surgery, advanced age, congenital spinal problems, etc.

How do people recover after a whiplash injury?

That depends on several factors: the severity of the injury, the type of treatment needed to recover, how soon the injury is attended to, etc. Your healthcare professional can perform a thorough evaluation of the injured area, and should be consulted as soon as possible after any automobile collision, no matter how minor. Contrary to popular belief, there is generally no correlation between the extent of personal injury and the amount of damage to the vehicles involved.3

How can my orthotics help after a whiplash injury?

Your body is similar to a moving chain, with your head, body, arms and legs linked together by joints, and supported by bones and soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, etc.). Movement at one joint influences movement at other joints in the chain.1 In fact, your feet can have a big influence on the rest of your body, especially if they are not in balance. Postural imbalance places stress and strain on body parts higher up, even in the neck, which can cause pain or perpetuate injuries.

How long does it take to recover?

Again, it depends on the factors mentioned above: severity of injury, needed treatment, and length of time between accident and professional evaluation. Your chiropractor can best answer that question.

One factor which often influences the length of recovery time is the determination of the appropriate treatment level for the patient. In many cases, the cervical spine is protected and allowed to rest. Using a cervical collar, cold packs, and a cervical pillow will help keep the patient properly supported and reasonably comfortable. The Foot Levelers family of cervical support pillows offers a full range of support factors and sizes to give every patient the best level of individual support.

Once the neck has healed sufficiently, you may be instructed by your doctor to perform a series of at-home rehabilitative exercises. The NECKSYS® Home Care Neck System by Foot Levelers is often recommended to build up stability, help heal ligaments and mobilize tight, stiff joints. Over the long term, these benefits help stabilize spinal joints, and improve function.

Click here to read more about Auto Accidents.

Please dont hesitate to give us a call for your free evaluation and exam today!  You may also stop by our new patient center here on this site, to download and print the forms that you will need to fill out for your first visit at our clinic (click here for paperwork).  Let us help you take the first step to getting your health back!


  1. Newman PK: Whiplash injury. Br Med J 1990; 300: 395-396.
  2. Cailliet R: Subluxations of the cervical spine. Florida Chiro Society Review 1988; 1(1)20-27.
  3. Croft AC: Treatment paradigm for cervical acceleration/deceleration injuries (whiplash). ACA J of Chiro 1993; 30(1)41-45.

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