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How long does it take to heal from whiplash?

That depends on the degree and type of injury one has sustained. It also depends on your state of health, since people with chronic health difficulties on average heal slower. Then we must look at how well you take care of yourself during the healing process:

  • How well do you eat?
  • Do you get enough sleep each night?
  • Do you exercise?
  • How efficiently do you manage your stress?
  • Do you hydrate yourself adequately?
  • Do you maintain a positive mental outlook?

Also, did you have prior injury to the same area? What is your age? Obviously, this is only a partial list of factors that may affect healing; nevertheless, one can see that the time that it takes to heal can vary greatly from one individual to another.

That being said, the healing of whiplash injuries occurs through three phases. These phases can require up to one year to complete, and sometimes longer. Since whiplash injury is primarily damage to the soft tissues: muscles, ligaments, tendons and discs; healing occurs through the formation of scar tissue and not by generation of the original damaged tissue.

The first phase is called the inflammatory phase. In this phase there is progressive bleeding from the stretching and tearing of the injured soft tissues supporting the spine. As a result, there is often a subsequent increase in pain and swelling for approximately the first 72 hours.

The second phase is called repair and regeneration. In this phase the body attempts to mend the area of injury by literally filing in the area of damage with scar tissue. This phase takes approximately six to eight weeks for completion.

The third and final phase is called remodeling. This important phase takes up to 12 months or longer to complete. The remolding phase is characterized by the body's attempt to reorganize the disorganized scar tissue that has formed. In other words, it is a period in which the body tries to make scar tissue come as close in quality to the original tissue as possible. Maximum scar maturation is not possible before 12 months and the original tensile strength of the tissue is not regained (50 to 70% of the original strength is the probable range). As such, these areas of healed injury are weaker than the original tissue and more predisposed to stiffness, spasm, chronic pain and re-injury. Chiropractic care during all three phases of healing is exceedingly important to facilitate optimal healing of the injured tissues, reduce pain and spasm and reduce the likelihood of future chronic pain and dysfunction. 

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