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10 Signs of Whiplash: When to See an Upper Cervical Chiropractor in San Diego

After any accident or physical trauma, you must watch for signs of whiplash. Whiplash is an injury not to be taken lightly because, when left untreated, it can lead to long-term pain and other health problems.

Whiplash can occur after any car accident, but it is most common in rear-end collisions. It can also happen if you are involved in a high-speed impact or if you are hit from the side.

Whiplash can also occur during a sports injury, such as when you are tackled in football or hockey. If you notice or deal with any of the following symptoms, please see a head and neck specialist like an Upper Cervical chiropractor in San Diego. Massage, physical therapy, and painkillers can provide temporary relief, but only a head and neck specialist can address the underlying cause of your whiplash injury.

1. Stiff neck

If you can’t turn your head, it may feel like your head is “stuck.” You may be unable to look over your shoulder when you back up the car or check for traffic. The first sign of whiplash is when you can’t turn your head to any side or direction due to a stiff neck. This is due to the strain or sprain of your muscles and ligaments after a forceful accident. Sometimes, your neck vertebrae may even shift out of alignment. 

Be on the lookout for pain, stiffness, and immobility in your neck. Ignoring them and not getting treatment can result in weak neck muscles and instability. Ligament instability with misalignment of the atlas vertebrae can cause a straightening or reverse curvature of the cervical spine.

This creates a dysfunction of the joints in the neck, but more importantly, undiagnosed spinal cord tension. Most medical doctors and regular chiropractors know of this but have had little success correcting this and the many other issues related to whiplash.

A neck will not respond to stretching as the ligaments and tissues are already stretched and stressed and require a more precise approach that involves the brain and brainstem to help bring back function, posture, and movement.

2. Headaches that won’t go away

Whiplash-induced headaches are common; unfortunately, taking over-the-counter painkillers won’t help. Headaches are due to pressure on the brainstem and spinal cord at the craniocervical junction. They can be helped with the NUCCA method, a specially designed technique of Upper Cervical Chiropractic.

The top bone in your spine, the Atlas (C-l), protects your brainstem. When it is out of alignment, it puts pressure on the delicate tissue. This pressure can cause migraines, cluster headaches, and tension headaches.

You don’t need surgery or any ice-threatening procedure; specialists in the upper neck region can help align your body in a natural, non-invasive way, such as an Upper Cervical chiropractor in San Diego.

3. Ringing in the ears

Also known as tinnitus, the constant ringing in your ears may indicate nerve irritation and pressure changes in the inner ear. It may become severe if left untreated, impairing your hearing.

Upper Cervical specialists (NUCCA chiropractors, for example) are trained to locate and correct misalignments in the upper neck, which can relieve pressure on the nerves and blood vessels leading to the ears.

4. Pain or difficulty swallowing

During accidents that lead to whiplash, your neck or head overextends. The sudden force and motion may lead to your jaw and upper neck getting out of alignment. Damage to the soft tissues around these areas follows, causing pain and inability to eat, speak or open the mouth. 

Realigning your jaw and neck can alleviate the pain and help you to swallow more easily. We advise that you see a qualified Upper Cervical specialist if you have these symptoms after an accident or fall.

5. Pain and tingles in the body

By now, you should have realized that whiplash affects your neck (cervical spine). Even a tingling sensation in your fingers may be a sign of whiplash. This happens because you have irritated the nerves that exit the spinal cord in your neck—the nerves responsible for your upper limbs’ sensation and motor control.

Your other body parts—for example, your arms and legs—may feel changes in sensation or, worse, nerve damage. When this happens, you may live with lower back pain, impaired mobility, and even paralysis. 

6. Dizziness or problems with your balance

When you have a rapid recoil motion similar to whiplash, it will lead to a comprise of the brain, brainstem and cerebellum through the upper neck. Unfortunately, this misdiagnosed symptom can lead to many difficulties later in life.

You might experience dizziness or problems with your balance and coordination. These problems can persist long after the initial injury. Even after the dizziness goes away, you might still have trouble with your balance. This can make it difficult to perform daily activities or participate in sports.

Suppose you’re experiencing any of these symptoms. In that case, it is wise to seek advice from an Upper Cervical chiropractor in San Diego that has experience in cases like this, as it will require precision and expert care to ensure no further symptoms arise.

7. Sensitivity to light and noise

It could signify whiplash if you’re suddenly more sensitive to light and noise. This is because the injury has affected the way your brain processes information.

You might find that loud noises are painful or that you can’t stand to be in brightly lit rooms. This can make everyday activities difficult to complete. Even though this is an extension of headaches and migraines, some cases only have isolated light and noise sensitivity.

8. Concussion

Often, whiplash and concussion come hand in hand. A concussion occurs when your brain rapidly hits your skull in a whipping motion, not just during sporting accidents.

Although people don’t always become unconscious after a concussion, please don’t take the incident lightly, as it can still cause harm. For example, you may experience dizziness and insomnia. Concussion may also affect your cognition, causing difficulty in focusing and remembering things and changes in your personality.

Untreated concussions bring long-term problems, so if you think you might have one, see a doctor right away. Signs and symptoms of whiplash may appear within 24 hours of the injury, but it can sometimes take days or weeks to appear fully.

9. Anxiety and irritability

Mood changes are expected following a whiplash. You may feel angry and frustrated, especially if your injuries prevent you from doing your usual activities. You may also feel anxious or irritable.

The faster the head moves, the more severe the symptoms of whiplash will be. If you experience these signs after an accident or injury, don’t hold back and see a doctor or Upper Cervical chiropractor in San Diego immediately.

Early diagnosis and cure can help manage the emotional changes affecting your home and work life. Talk to your doctor or counselor if you’re having trouble dealing with them.

10. Insomnia

Difficulty sleeping is common after a car accident. You may have trouble falling asleep or wake up often at night. Also, getting comfortable is a struggle when you’re dealing with pain. More so if the brain and body are still traumatized by the accident.

If you’ve suffered whiplash in an accident or because of injury, please get treated right away to avoid serious medical concerns down the road. For expert diagnosis and effective whiplash care, call Nimbus Brain & Spine or visit our website to schedule a discovery call today!


To schedule a consultation with Dr. Soham, call our San Diego office at (858) 432-3072.

If you are outside of the local area, you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at


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