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Whiplash is a non-medical term used to describe injury caused by a rapid jerking of the neck either forward and backward or side-to-side. It is most often associated with motor vehicle accidents, but can also occur from falls, blows to the head, or sports accidents to name a few. The sudden, forceful movement with whiplash causes the neck to move beyond its normal range of motion. This can cause tearing in the muscles, tendons and ligaments, which support the neck and can lead to damage to the intervertebral disc, spinal nerves or even spinal cord. Symptoms include swelling and/or tenderness of the neck, difficulty swallowing, jaw problems, nausea, vomiting, flashes of light, headache, dizziness, cognitive disturbance, insomnia, pain, numbness and/or tingling into the shoulder or arm, weakness in the neck, shoulder, arm or hand, or ringing in the ears. Symptoms may be acute or chronic (longstanding). Often, symptoms of whiplash may not manifest for weeks or even years. Such an injury to the neck alters the proper biomechanics and can lead to misalignment (subluxation) and a loss of the natural curve of the cervical spine. A full 5% of the population will experience a whiplash injury, and 43% of these people will develop chronic symptoms.

Chiropractic and Whiplash

Chiropractors work to correct the biomechanical problem causing the symptoms related to whiplash. A symptom-only approach (i.e. pain medication) will not correct the problem. One report examined 10,382 articles on neck injury and found traditional techniques for whiplash (collars, injections, ultrasound, medication) were largely ineffective. Several studies point to the success of chiropractic for whiplash sufferers. One found 26% were completely pain free after chiropractic intervention and the other 74% were significantly improved. Another found 93% improvement. Patients who undergo chiropractic care are found to have the natural curve of their necks restored, whereas patients who do not undergo chiropractic care tend be left with a straightened or even reverse curve in their neck. 


  • Journal of Orthopaedic Medicine- Winter 1999/2000; 21(1): 22-5.
  • Quebec Automobile Insurance Society report on whiplash treatments Injury 1996; 27:643-5.
  • J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1983; 6:17-23.
  • Lancet, Brain SPECT findings in late whiplash syndrome, June 10, 1995, vol. 345, p. 1513-14.