One of the symptoms commonly associated with whiplash associated disorder (WAD) is headaches. The current research suggests that up to 50% of patients who experience whiplash-associated headaches may continue to suffer from them for up to a year or more, and many of those will continue to have headaches as late as five years following their whiplash injury event. There are many potential causes for WAD-related headaches, which can include cervical injury, jaw dysfunction (TMJ), psychological distress (depression and anxiety), brain structure abnormalities (concussion), and/or overuse of headache medications.
To address these potential causes of whiplash associated headaches, treatment may include the following:
MANUAL THERAPIES: Mobilization and manipulation, which are commonly used by doctors of chiropractic, have been demonstrated to be effective for reducing pain and improving function for many conditions, including WAD and headaches of cervical origin. Treatment may also involve massage and physical therapy modalities, depending on the patient’s needs.
EXERCISE: A review of research published between 1990 and 2015 found that craniocervical, cervicoscapular, and posture correction exercises can be helpful in the treatment of whiplash-related headaches.
STAY ACTIVE: Try to carry on with normal activities within pain tolerances, as movement is needed to keep soft tissues healthy and to ensure a continuous supply of nutrients to the cervical disks. Don’t use a cervical collar to immobilize the neck unless directed to do so by your doctor.
NUTRITIONAL SUPPORT: There are several vitamins and supplements that have been shown to reduce inflammation and/or reduce pain. These include flavonoids, curcuminoids, omega-3 fatty acids, taurine, and vitamin D. Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet can also aid in the healing process.
Doctors of chiropractic frequently use a combination of these approaches when managing WAD patients to help reduce pain and disability and assist the patient in returning to their normal activities as soon as possible.