Whiplash injury is is common in many car accidents, and can cause long lasting symptoms that can affect your life. Sheppard Spine And Sports Clinic can help you to treat your whiplash symptoms so that you can regain your quality of life as soon as possible. Please make an appointment with Sheppard Spine And Sports Clinic today for a consultation so that we can devise a treatment program for your whiplash injury.
Whiplash is stiffness and pain in the neck after a car or other accident that causes the neck to move suddenly back and forth beyond its normal range. It happens when the head snaps forward and backward in a violent collision. Whiplash injury most often occurs to a person that is hit from behind in a car accident, or in a fall or sports injury. The whiplash injury is actually stretching and tears of the ligaments and muscles in the neck. It also can damage nerves, and in a few cases, even break bones.
Typical symptoms of whiplash injury are stiffness and pain in the neck and often muscles in the head, chest, shoulders and neck. Also, you may have headaches, feel dizzy and have back pain. Some people may not experience symptoms until a day or two after the accident. Some symptoms may fade but return after a few days. You could have a more serious neck injury if you experience these symptoms.
- Severe neck pain
- Pain that goes down one or both arms
- Pain that returns after it was gone for a few days
- Numbness or tingling in the arms, chest, legs or hands
- Weakness in the hands, legs or arms
- Difficulty moving the head
Your medical professional will ask you questions about your neck injury, how it occurred, symptoms and past health. He or she will then examine your neck and head to determine the extent of your injuries. The doctor may also do X-rays to ensure there are not broken bones or more serious injuries. Some patients require an MRI or CT scan to check for other soft tissue or nerve injuries.
Many whiplash injuries will heal over time on their own, but some cases may need medical intervention. Some of the things that you can do on your own after consulting with a medical professional are:
- Take over the counter pain drugs such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Your medical professional may prescribe stronger pain relievers and muscles relaxants.
- Some people find that icing or heating the neck can be helpful. You can try a heating pad on low or medium for 15-20 minutes every three hours. Also, you can try a warm shower instead of one of the sessions with the heating pad. Ice packs every 15 minutes for two or three hours may also reduce swelling.
- Put a firm pillow or rolled up towel under the neck when you go to sleep. You also may try a soft, foam collar to support the neck for brief periods. You should not wear the collar for more than a few days unless told to do so by your doctor.
It can take your neck several months to heal, but a lot of the pain may decrease in a few weeks. More severe cases of whiplash injury can take longer to heal, but most will improve within six months to one year.
Your medical professional may also have you perform a series of stretching and movement exercises regularly to improve your range of motion in the neck so that you can resume your normal activities. Your healthcare professional may also advise you to apply moist heat or to take a hot shower before doing your neck exercises. Some of the most helpful exercises for whiplash injury can be to rotate the neck to the left and right; tilt the head from side to side; bend the neck to the chest; and roll the shoulders.
Physical therapy can help you to regain range of motion, which is especially important if you are experiencing chronic pain from your injury. Your physical therapist may have you do additional exercises to build muscle strength in the neck, improve how you hold your head and generally restore normal head and neck movement. The goal of most physical therapy sessions is to develop a treatment routine that can be largely repeated at home.
Nontraditional therapies also can be helpful to relieve whiplash symptoms. Some of the most popular include:
- Acupuncture: This treatment has tiny needles inserted in certain areas of the skin in the neck region. You may be able to experience substantial pain relief with this nontraditional method.
- U.C.C.A.: This is a gentle correction to the neck vertebrae that is practiced at the Sheppard Spine And Sports Clinic. This spinal manipulation technique involves adjustment to the atlas vertebrae at the top of the spine and the base of the skull. In a whiplash injury, this vertebra can become misaligned. Our practitioners specialize in the proper adjustment of this vertebra to relieve neck pain symptoms.
- Massage: Neck and back massage by a trained massage therapist can substantially relieve whiplash injury pain.
- Exercise: Strength training and aerobic exercise can be helpful to increase cardiovascular and muscular strength, which can benefit the back and neck muscles. You should talk to your medical professional to determine if you are in suitable physical condition to engage in physical exercise with your whiplash injury.
- TENS: This is transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation that applies a small electric shock to your skin in the neck region. Some patients find that this treatment can reduce neck pain temporarily.
Preventing Whiplash Injury
Most cases of whiplash are from rear end car accidents. One of the most effective ways to prevent this injury is to always wear your seatbelt. Make sure your car’s headrest is high enough, and do not drive in a position that is overly reclined. People who participate in sports should always wear proper equipment and use good techniques to avoid any injuries to the neck.
- Whiplash Diagnosis and Treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/whiplash/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20378926
- Whiplash Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved fromhttps://www.webmd.com/back-pain/tc/whiplash-topic-overview#1