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Getting moving after whiplash

Getting moving after whiplash

Whiplash results when the soft tissues (the muscles and ligaments), and joints of your neck extend beyond their typical range of motion. This is usually because of a rapid movement backward and then forward, from a car accident or even a “simple fall”.  In many cases, the symptoms might not be apparent for the first 24 hours following the incident, and may take a few days to develop.


Symptoms can include any of the following:


  • neck pain and stiffness
  • headaches (specifically at the base of the skull)
  • dizziness
  • blurred vision
  • constant weariness


Although whiplash is thought of as a relatively mild condition, it can cause long-term pain and discomfort.


If you have been in any type of car accident or another incident that could conceivably jerk your neck around, it’s important to get checked out to make sure that you’re OK, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Getting an evaluation by a trained practitioner is the first step.


The severity of the whiplash injury does not always correlate to the degree of injury, even a minor whiplash type injury can result in severe symptoms. The diagrams below show what can happen to your neck if you have suffered from a whiplash injury. The flattening of the normal curve in the neck places an increased tension on the spinal cord which will accentuate/aggravate any musculoskeletal symptoms. Choosing to do nothing has some pretty serious consequences as can be seen in the diagrams.


Potential consequences of not getting treatment include:


  • problems with concentration and memory
  • ringing in the ears
  • inability to sleep well
  • irritability
  • chronic pain in the neck, shoulders or head
  • referred pain and weakness in the arms and hands


It is very important to get moving correctly soon after a whiplash injury. In my opinion if all you do is strengthen an area that is moving incorrectly, you encourage that incorrect or aberrant movement. To start, we need to allow the bony architecture (your sine) to move freely again. This is done by your chiropractor, who uses a process of gentle mobilisations, graduating to adjusting the neck and upper back, in order to re-establish the normal biomechanics, and allowing the muscles to go back to performing their normal functions without pain.


I will give you some exercises to improve you range of motion and maintain your flexibility, again this is graduated from very simple and easy to quite challenging depending on the extent of your injury and pain levels. By retraining and strengthening the area, will ensures that you are in as good, if not better shape than prior to your injury, and that you reduce your chances of ongoing and recurring problems in the future.


I try and give my patients a graduated return to activity plan at the first or second appointment. The quicker you can re-establish a normal pain free range of motion the better your outcome. This process also allows us to set goals for you to achieve and for you to play an active part in your progression to being pain free and enjoying full range of movement again.


If you or a loved one have suffered a whiplash injury recently and haven’t had it checked out please come see me – Dr Jason Berry at Pure Healthcare.




  1. Michael D Freeman, Arthur C Croft, Annette M Rossignol, Christopher J Centeno, and Whitney L Elkins. Chronic neck pain and whiplash: A case-control study of the relationship between acute whiplash injuries and chronic neck pain
  2. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2585479/ (accessed 1 March 2017)
  3. Eric L. Hurwitz, , Hal Morgenstern, Philip Harber, Gerald F. Kominski, Fei Yu, and Alan H. A Randomized Trial of Chiropractic Manipulation and Mobilization for Patients With Neck Pain: Clinical Outcomes From the UCLA Neck-Pain Study
  4. Adams. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447299/ (accessed 1 March 2017)