Category Archives: Whiplash

Whiplash, chronic neck pain, and chiropractic care infographic

Here’s a great infographic on whiplash injuries put together by Tampa car accident attorneys at

Most people associate whiplash with neck pain, but even “low impact” motor vehicle collisions can wreak all kinds of havoc on your body. We are currently treating quite a few patients with auto injuries who suffer from everything from headaches to neck and back pain, knee injuries, and even a rotator cuff tear. A lot of people will put off seeing a doctor after a motor vehicle accident in hopes that the pain will eventually go away. As this illustration shows, a significant number of people who suffer whiplash injuries will develop chronic pain.

Don’t leave it up to chance. If you have been injured in a car accident, see a chiropractor or other healthcare provider and get treatment ASAP. Contact us if you have any questions at 503-526-8782.


Whiplash | Auto injuries and chiropractic care

Where does whiplash pain come from?

sore neck?

When the cervical spine (neck) is subject to whiplash, there is usually a combination of factors that contribute to whiplash pain in the neck and back, and ultimately need to be addressed individually by a chiropractor, who maintains a “holistic” view of the patient’s whiplash pain. This article explains how chiropractors approach treating neck pain, back pain, and/or other whiplash symptoms, and help patients prevent chronic whiplash pain.

Whiplash Pain Management for Joint Dysfunction

Joint dysfunction from whiplash occurs when one of the joints in the spine or limbs loses its normal joint play (resiliency and shock absorption). A chiropractic technique called motion palpation gently moves the joint in different directions and assesses its joint play. When a joint develops dysfunction, its normal range of movement may be affected and it can become painful.

Muscle Dysfunction from Whiplash Injuries

When joint dysfunction develops, muscles are affected by becoming tense and overactive or inhibited and underactive. In either case, these muscles can develop trigger points that may necessitate whiplash treatment involving muscle relaxation or stimulation. Trigger points are areas of congestion within the muscle where toxins accumulate and can irritate the nerve endings within the muscle and produce pain. This whiplash pain can occur in the muscle itself or can be referred pain (perceived in other areas of the body). The muscle can also send abnormal neurological signals into the nervous system, which can then cause disruption of the ability of the nervous system to properly regulate muscles in other parts of the body, leading to the development of faulty movement patterns.

Faulty Movement Patterns and Whiplash Pain

It is thought that the intense barrage of pain signals from a traumatic whiplash injury to the cervical spine can change the way the nervous system controls the coordinated function of muscles. The disruption of coordinated, stable movement is known as faulty movement patterns which cause increased strain in the muscles and joints, leading to neck pain and back pain. They can involve the neck itself or can arise from dysfunction in other areas of the body such as the foot or pelvis. Instability is also considered part of faulty movement patterns. There are two types of instability that can occur in whiplash: Passive—the ligaments of the neck are loosened, making it more susceptible to whiplash pain; and Dynamic—the nervous system disruption causes a disturbance in the body’s natural muscular response to common, everyday forces. Instability can cause even mild, innocuous activities difficult to perform as they often exacerbate the whiplash pain.

Whiplash Pain from a Herniated Disc

The force of whiplash can cause injury to the discs between the vertebrae, and small tears can develop. If the gelatinous middle of the disc seeps out, it can irritate the nerve endings in this area. This is known as disc derangement. Occasionally, the gel can seep all the way out and press on a nerve root exiting the spinal cord behind the disc, known as disc herniation. A herniated disc may involve whiplash pain in the neck as well as sharp, shooting pain down the arm and possibly neurological symptoms such as numbness, tingling and muscle weakness.

Chiropractic Treatments for Whiplash

Each case of whiplash is different so it’s not possible to generalize about the chiropractic whiplash treatment. Chiropractors commonly employ different chiropractic treatments for whiplash, often including:

  • Manipulation
  • Muscle relaxation and/or stimulation
  • Various exercises
  • Ergonomic and lifestyle changes.
Preventing Chronic Pain from Whiplash

After sustaining whiplash injuries, it is fairly common for people to suffer from chronic neck pain. Chiropractors can detect certain factors in a patient’s history and chiropractic exam to better determine patients who may be more susceptible to chronic pain from a whiplash injury. This process will identify when aggressive preventative measures should be taken for patients who may be at a greater risk of developing chronic neck pain from whiplash injuries.

Research update: Which neck pain treatments work?

Which chiropractic treatment works best for neck pain

Research shows chiropractic care relieves both chronic and acute neck pain

Manipulation, or chiropractic adjustments, of the neck are a polarizing topic. There are some in the medical profession who denounce it as unnecessary and unsafe. On the other hand are the millions of chiropractic, osteopathic, and physical therapy patients who have benefitted greatly from cervical spine (neck) adjustments. The good thing is that as the chiropractic profession advances, more and more research is coming out to give scientific backing to the millions of personal anecdotes of successful treatment of neck pain with chiropractic care. There is already a plethora of evidence regarding the safety of chiropractic adjustments to dispute the claim that it is unsafe. Thankfully there is also mounting evidence, such as the study above, to prove that it actually works. The great thing about this paper is that it is a systematic review. In the hierarchy of scientific evidence, the systematic review is the top dog. What I find significant are two things in particular:

  1. It found a moderate-strong recommendation through a search of 41 high quality random trials that both chronic and acute neck pain respond well to chiropractic adjustments. This is significant because it has long been believed (I don’t know why) that only acute neck and back pain respond well to manipulation. This search found that chronic neck pain may even be more likely to improve with treatment.
  2. It’s not all about the adjustment. It lists other common treatments of neck pain, which can all be performed our chiropractor in Beaverton, Oregon! Even more awesome is that it lists which ones have shown good evidence of effectiveness and which have not. Many of you may recognize these therapies and have received them on multiple occasions, and it may surprise you that some of them are not effective! You’ll be happy to know that those therapies found in the “Weak Recommendation” or “No recommendation” are not therapies that we use much at Catalyst Chiropractic and Rehabilitation. The ones we use the most, and excel at, are those in the moderate-strong recommendation categories. They are not flashy, fancy, gimmicks, but they are tried and true methods that will get you out of pain and keep you feeling better for the long term.

Please contact us if you have questions about how we can help you find relief from your acute or chronic neck pain. 503-526-8782

How to avoid an auto injury

Auto injuries

It’s that time of year again when we start seeing more whiplash cases from motor vehicle collisions in the clinic. Regardless of how much damage is done to the vehicle, crashes often cause significant spinal pain, limited range of motion, and tight, sore muscles. These injuries can be stubborn healers, too, frequently taking longer than the standard 4-6 weeks for a broken bone to heal. In the hundreds of these cases that I have personally treated, I have learned a few tips on what situations to avoid on the road to reduce my chances of being in a collision. Here is a list of some of the most common ways my motor vehicle injury patients have been injured. My hope is that it will help you stay out of harm’s way and out of my office!

1. Dead stop: The majority of my whiplash patients have been rear-ended while at a complete stop. Granted, sometimes it is because they stop abruptly, however, more often than not they have been stopped for some time when they are hit by somebody who isn’t paying attention. Keep an eye on your rear view mirror when stopping to make sure the person behind you is slowing to a stop as well.

2. “Suicide” lane: There is a reason the middle turn lane has been given this moniker. Avoid it whenever possible, because it can be entered by cars from either direction without warning. Some people will enter this lane when turning from a side street while they wait to merge into the far lane. I choose to wait until there is enough of a clearing that I can just cross right over into the far lane and not become a sitting duck in the middle turn lane.

3. Traffic jam: Do you remember what the recommended following distance is for driving on the freeway? If you’re like me, it’s been a long time since your driver’s test, so I’ll remind you. For good conditions, leave 2 seconds between you and the car in front of you. For poor weather conditions or night driving, leave 4 seconds. For major inclement weather such as snow, fog, or ice, you should leave 6 seconds between you and the car you follow. If you spend any time on the freeways in and around Portland, you know that traffic can slow down or stop VERY abruptly, so don’t ignore this guidance.

4. Look both ways…more than once: A lot of auto injuries occur from collisions with cross traffic. When entering a busy road, double and triple check traffic in both directions. And please make sure you have plenty of space to enter the lane. You can’t be too careful in this scenario.

Whiplash and other auto-related injuries are a serious problem and should not go untreated. If you or a loved one has recently been in an auto accident, contact us with any questions you may have or to schedule a consultation.