How Chiropractic Care and Massage Therapy Helps Treat Whiplash

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young woman sitting in car holding her neck

Even with the high price of gas, summer road trips with your friends and family are likely high on your to-do list. After all, who doesn’t love to roll the windows down, crank up the music and enjoy the inviting summer breezes after a long winter spent indoors?

Unfortunately, more cars on the road mean more fender-benders and serious car accidents. For our chiropractic and massage therapy team, it means an influx of patients seeking care at our clinic for accident-related injuries.

Our Pickering chiropractic and massage therapy team has decades of experience helping patients move on from their injuries.

People injured in a motor vehicle accident sometimes experience a strain of their neck muscles and the surrounding soft tissue, commonly referred to as whiplash. Anyone who has had such an injury knows neck muscles can be very tender, and neck movement can be quite limited.

Whiplash is a neck injury due to forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip. Although whiplash most often occurs during a rear-end auto accident, the injury can also result from a sports accident, physical abuse or other trauma. Research shows that successful whiplash treatment requires patient cooperation and active efforts to resume daily activity.

Common signs and symptoms of whiplash usually — but not always — develop within 24 hours of the injury and may include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Worsening of pain with neck movement
  • Loss of range of motion in the neck
  • Headaches, most often starting at the base of the skull
  • Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back or arms
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

Most people with whiplash get better within a few weeks by following a treatment plan that includes pain medication and exercise. However, some experience chronic neck pain and other long-lasting complications.

Whiplash may be called a neck sprain or strain, but these terms also include other types of neck injuries.

Some people also suffer from:

  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Depression

Get help for your whiplash injury

Do not ignore whiplash-type injuries. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, seek a medical examination. Health care professionals are alert for the signs of more serious neck trauma.

Good news

The good news is that most whiplash injuries are not serious and will heal fully. Many people experience little disruption in their activities and are able to get on with their daily lives.

Did you know?

Whiplash can occur from many causes, not just car accidents. For example, it can happen from falling downstairs or having something fall on your head. It can also happen when tackled or bodychecked while taking part in contact sports.

Whiplash can also occur at a relatively low impact. For example, a hit in a car accident at less than 10km/hour can cause whiplash. Pain, stiffness and other symptoms of Grade 1 (tender muscles) or Grade 2 (limited neck movement) whiplash typically start within the first two days after an accident.

Avoid whiplash in the future: Adjust your car’s headrest

Properly adjusting the height of your car headrest will help prevent whiplash injury in an accident. In an ideal adjustment, the top of your head should be in line with the top of the headrest and there should be no more than 2 to 5 cm between the back of your head and the headrest.

How chiropractic care and massage therapy helps treat whiplash

Even if you seek chiropractic care complaining of neck pain following a trauma, your chiropractor will evaluate your entire spine because other regions of the spine may be affected (not just your neck). Your chiropractor will identify any areas of restricted joint motion, intervertebral disc injury, muscle spasm, and ligament injury and will also feel for tenderness, tightness, and how well your spinal joints move. In addition to performing a series of spinal adjustments to correct vertebral subluxations, your chiropractor may also prescribe therapeutic exercises to help restore normal motion in your spine and reduce whiplash symptoms.

Massage therapy helps rid the pain caused by whiplash and increases the amount of oxygen the body gives to the tissues, thus speeding up the recovery process. And by stimulating circulation and increasing the flow of oxygen, massage therapy may rid you of the headaches associated with whiplash.

Need help recovering from a whiplash injury? At Pickering Village Chiropractic & Massage, chiropractors Dr. John Noble and Dr. Mark Fera can evaluate and treat your injuries, and registered massage therapists Jessica Raedisch or Rolf Castanheiro will employ a variety of hands-on techniques to assess and treat the soft tissues and joints of the body. If you’re looking for chiropractic care and massage therapy in Ajax or Pickering, call our clinic at 905-427-3202 to make an appointment.

Concussion: The Invisible Injury

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A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that occurs when your brain is shaken inside your skull. All it takes is a hard tumble on the basketball court or a blow to your head, neck or body.

That’s right, you don’t necessarily have to hit your head. It can happen when your body jolts suddenly due to a hard tackle or a car accident; the resulting injury may be whiplash and a concussion.

This trauma can potentially damage the blood vessels in your brain or injure its tissue. To minimize the risk of long-term damage, it’s important to learn how to identify and manage a concussion.

The Invisible Injury

A concussion is often referred to as an ‘invisible injury’ because its symptoms aren’t always easy to recognize. Even MRI imaging isn’t perfect at identifying one. But when this kind of brain trauma happens, the effects are all too real.

Contrary to popular belief, concussions don’t only happen if you black out. In fact, nine times out of ten, concussions don’t make you lose consciousness and some only cause a brief interruption in mental alertness.

Athletes: Step back and manage a concussion

Studies have shown that most high school and college athletes don’t report concussions while playing football. They may not realize that a concussion can happen even if you don’t black out.

In the past, athletes in many sports returned to play too soon after a concussion, sometimes even on the same day. But thanks in part to Rowan’s Law, sports and health organizations are starting to take these injuries much more seriously. Trainers, health care professionals and athletes themselves are watching more closely for concussions. They are also taking a more conservative approach to rehabilitation and return to play. This is an important change for the health of athletes everywhere.

Here are some points to consider and steps you can take to reduce your risk of long-term effects:

How can I tell if I have a concussion?

Effective concussion management starts with recognizing the signs and symptoms, some of which may show up hours or days after your injury. It’s important for parents, coaches, trainers and athletes to recognize the warning signs and remove the athlete from play if any of them are present.

Check for warning signs of a concussion:

  • Difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating or remembering new information
  • Headache, blurry vision, queasiness or vomiting, dizziness, balance problems or sensitivity to noise or light
  • Irritability, moodiness, sadness or nervousness
  • Extreme sleepiness or difficulty falling asleep or remaining asleep

Concussion symptoms can vary widely from person to person. One person might suffer from pain, while another may have depression and trouble sleeping.

See a trusted, licensed health care professional as soon as possible.

Any athlete with potential concussion warning signs should see a medical doctor or nurse practitioner as quickly as possible for a diagnosis. Remember, there is no simple test for a concussion. You can miss a concussion if you rely only on a five-minute assessment done on the sidelines. (Note: If this incident did not occur during sport, another licensed health care professional, such as a chiropractor, is permitted to assess you and diagnose a concussion.)

Athletes, coaches, parents and health care professionals should stay up to date on concussion safety. If you are not comfortable dealing with a concussion yourself, have a plan in place so you know exactly who to ask for help to identify and manage a concussion if someone shows warning signs.

What should I do immediately afterwards to manage a concussion?

If you’ve had a concussion, the first 10 days are crucial. During this time, you’re at the greatest risk for another. Not only that, the risk of a second concussion rises every time you have one. If you can protect yourself in those first few days, you’ll have much better odds of a full recovery.

When can I return to play?

Most people recover from a concussion within a few days to three months. The Zurich Consensus statement on concussion recovery recommends the following five stages of rehabilitation:

  1. No activity: Focus on recovery. Rest your body and your mind.
  2. Light aerobic exercise: Get your heart rate up with light activities, such as walking, swimming and stationary cycling, but don’t go past 70 per cent of your maximum heart rate. Your goal is to increase your heart rate without risk of re-injury. Do not do any resistance training yet.
  3. Sport-specific exercise: Add movement by re-introducing sport-specific movement, like skating or running drills in soccer. Don’t do anything that might put your head at risk of being hit.
  4. Non-contact training drills: Add more complex training drills to improve your exercise, coordination and working memory (cognitive load). This can include passing drills in football or hockey. You may start resistance training again.
  5. Full-contact practice: Resume normal training once you attain ‘medical clearance’ to confirm it’s okay. This will build your confidence and skills before returning to play. A medical doctor or nurse practitioner can provide this medical clearance. A chiropractor can also co-manage return to play decisions and sports-specific guidelines.

If you experience recurring symptoms at any stage in your recovery, restart this process and remain inactive until the symptoms stop. Once you complete these five stages, you can return to play but only after a licensed health care professional, who is trained in evaluating and managing concussions, gives you medical clearance to do so.

What role does your health care team play?

A medical doctor or nurse practitioner can provide a thorough assessment, and concussion diagnosis and manage your condition. They can also evaluate ‘when’ you can safely return to play and provide medical clearance for you to do so.

The value of an interprofessional care team

In all cases though, it’s valuable to have a team, with various health care professionals, working together to help manage your concussion and get you back on the field safely, with an eye on your long-term health.

A chiropractor is often on the sidelines at sporting events, as a trainer or team chiropractor to prevent and address spine, muscle or joint injuries. Chiropractors in Canada are not currently permitted to diagnose a concussion that occurs during sport. However, they have the competencies, including neurological assessment skills, to assess and give you an informed referral to the appropriate health care professional for further evaluation/treatment. Your chiropractor will also work with your interprofessional care team to help manage your condition if needed.

Many athletes trust chiropractic care and its role in sports medicine, so they often consult their chiropractor when they first sustain an injury.

At Pickering Village Chiropractic & Massage, chiropractors Dr. John Noble and Dr. Mark Fera can diagnose neck, shoulder or back injuries that commonly occur with a concussion and offer appropriate treatment. They can also help you manage headaches, and back or muscle pain that results from a concussion.

While you’re resting and recovering, these injuries might resolve on their own. If not, they can help you recover and work with your care team to co-manage your return to play. As part of this process, they can evaluate your strength and physical function to help you know when your body is ready to get back in the game.

Some of the best-known strategies for managing a concussion include education, encouragement and a commitment to getting you back to your daily activities as soon as it is safe and appropriate. It takes a committed approach from the right health care team, along with your family and friends, to help you avoid or overcome many of a concussion’s negative results.


The chiropractic and massage therapy team at Pickering Village Chiropractic & Massage helps patients build better pathways to overall wellness, as well as relief from neck and back pain and muscle aches. Poor habits and injury can lead to pain that can restrict your ability to work or enjoy your leisure time.

We provide you with more than just chiropractic and massage services, but also the know-how to build better personal wellness habits so that you can be at your best for work or play, every day. Contact our clinic today at 905-427-3202.

With content from the Ontario Chiropractic Association