Whiplash is a non-specific term describing the violent and fast back-and-forth motion of the neck – like the cracking of a whip.

Whiplash is a traumatic injury to the structures of the cervical spine (the seven uppermost vertebrae). It involves muscles and ligaments (Sprain/Strain injury) and is caused by extremes in range of motion in the absence of severe bony injury such as fracture, dislocation or disc herniation.

Sports accidents, physical abuse and other trauma can cause whiplash, but most often it results from rear-end motor vehicle accidents.

Muscles in the neck, mid-back and shoulder girdle areas can begin to spasm as a result of trying to protect nerves and the spinal cord. Muscle spasms combined with vertebrae getting out of alignment can create nerve impingements, leading to referred pain, or pain that is perceived at a location other than where it originates.

Whiplash symptoms include neck pain, burning and stiffness, arm pain and headaches. Adrenaline in the immediate aftermath of an accident may mask symptoms initially.

People can also suffer a sprain/strain injury to the muscles and ligaments of the low back after a car accident. Symptoms in the low back are very similar to that of the neck and mid back with pain, spasms and stiffness.


Whiplash symptoms can go on for years unless the injury is addressed. The whiplike motion causes the muscles and ligaments in the neck and upper back to form micro tears. Without proper treatment, these micro tears will heal as scar tissue. Symptoms may resolve but any kind of sudden movement or sudden stretch can tear the scar tissue causing inflammation and the original symptoms to return.

With physical therapy you can prevent these exacerbations. Our neck sprain/strain program is designed to break up any scar tissue present so there are not set backs. The program has Four stages:

1) Reduce muscle guarding and muscle spasms
2) Restore full range of motion of the neck and full flexibility of the neck and shoulder muscles
3) Build neck and shoulder blade strength and postural awareness to protect your neck from another sprain/strain injury
4) Endurance and functional movement training so your neck is ready any movement required


Chiropractors are great at moving joints and realigning the spine. They also use modalities to help the tissue heal. However, Chiropractors do not address movement, flexibility or strength. So while people feel relief after leaving a chiropractic session, it is only short lived. Without proper movement/strength/flexibility training the whiplash symptoms will return.

Massages are great for reducing muscle guarding, spasms and inflammation. However, there is no movement training in massage therapy. After a massage you may feel great but the improvement will be short lived.

Physical Therapy can address alignment, reduce spasms, restore movement, improve strength and flexibility, and optimize your posture to make sure the symptoms do not return.


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