How Long Does It Take A Chiropractor To Fix Whiplash?

Experiments with laboratory animals and many years of cumulative clinic experience have shown that injured soft tissues (ligaments, tendons, joint capsules, etc.) may require several months to heal completely. In contrast, broken bones generally heal completely in a couple of months and are then usually just as strong as ever. Whiplash injuries, because they involve soft tissues, can sometimes take several months or more to resolve. When the injury is minor, you may require very little active treatment, although your doctor will want to see you several times just to check on your progress and make sure that subtle problems are not brewing beneath the surface.

The basic structural element of nearly all soft tissues in the body is collagen. When an injury occurs, this collagen tissue is torn, along with small blood vessels (capillaries) running through it. Part of the process of inflammation is to call into the injured area specialized white blood cells called macrophages whose job is to clean up the tissue so that an organized and effective healing process can take place. Damaged tissue is disposed of, new capillaries are developed, and new collagen is deposited by yet another specialized cell called a fibroblast.

In their fully developed state, mature collagen fibers are like microscopic strands of rope, yet when new collagen is first deposited during the healing process, it has the consistency of honey– virtually no tensile strength at all. With time, chemical bonds develop within this tissue, giving it more strength. With still more time, cross linkages develop between collagen strands which provide it with even greater strength. As the healing process goes along, the body actually remodels this collagen in an attempt to make it as much like the original tissue as possible.

Depending on several factors, this final remodeling process can continue for over a year. During this time, it is important to ensure that normal alignment and motion of the spine is maintained, and this is one of the important functions of spinal adjustment, or manipulation. Without it, the body may heal in a haphazard alignment, resulting in abnormal spinal biomechanics, and this can pave the way for chronic pain and an accelerate spinal degeneration. 

We also know that certain stresses imposed on the healing tissue will allow it to develop optimally along these normal lines of stress. This is part of the chiropractic strategy and speeds recovery. It also produces the best possible fiber orientation or alignment (i.e., one that is optimally and structurally capable of withstanding normal everyday stresses and strains). This is why, as an example, athletic injuries are now treated with early mobilization, as opposed to prolonged immobilization in a cast or sling, as they had been in the past.

In Conclusion, it may take anywhere from several months to a year to fully heal depending on the extent of your injury. As your recovery progresses, your doctor will reduce the treatment frequency accordingly. Typically this will go from three times per week down to two times per week, and then down to once per week , and so on.