You’ve most likely heard of whiplash. (That’s why you clicked on this article!) It’s a common injury, but most people don’t fully understand what it is and how it can cause serious, chronic neck pain if not treated properly. Let’s take a look at whiplash, its symptoms and how you can get on the road to recovery as quickly as possible.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash or whiplash-associated disorder (WAD) is a soft tissue neck injury that occurs when your head suddenly and forcefully moves backward and forward causing your spine to bend past its normal range of motion. The movement is like the cracking of a whip – hence the name! Most often seen in rear-end car accidents, the force of the impact can cause stretching and sometimes even tearing in the muscles, discs, nerves and tendons in your neck.
What Causes Whiplash?
While car accidents remain the top cause of whiplash, there are additional injuries that can produce this condition:
- Sports injuries, particularly contact sports like football
- Physical abuse
- Forceful amusement park rides
- Horseback riding
Symptoms of Whiplash
Symptoms of whiplash are varied and can be different for each person and each accident. The most common patient complaint is pain and stiffness in the neck. You may also experience a combination of these whiplash symptoms as well:
- Constant fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Soreness in the shoulders, upper back and upper arms
- Tingling or numbness in the arms
- Frequent headaches, especially around the base of the skull
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Ringing in the ears
What Does Whiplash Feel Like and How Long Does It Last?
Whiplash ranges from very mild to severe, and doesn’t always correlate to the seriousness of your accident. Pain typically shows up right after the injury occurs – usually within 24 hours. Sometimes, however, you may feel fine right after an accident, but the whiplash symptoms manifest a few days later.
Most people feel the symptoms of whiplash for a week or two. But some experience chronic pain and inflammation that can last months or even years if not treated properly.
How to Cure Whiplash
One of the best things you can do after an accident that causes your head and neck to be aggressively shaken is to pay close attention to your body and how it feels. If any mix of symptoms listed above begin to appear, it is a good idea to seek out medical attention. (Hint: Call Dr. Levi!)
Whiplash Injury Self-Care
Before you can get to your appointment, there are a few immediate things you can try on your own to alleviate your whiplash pain and speed recovery.
Take it easy and try not to move your neck and head if possible
Since ice naturally eases inflammation and swelling, putting a cold pack on your neck in 15 minute increments can help.
Using an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medication like ibuprofen should lessen mild pain.
Whiplash Injury Professional Care
Seeing a medical professional after an accident of any kind is a smart idea even if your whiplash symptoms are mild. Your injury can be fully evaluated with a physical exam in which your provider will test your range of motion and investigate your areas of pain. Doctors will often prescribe NSAID or prescription pain medications. A neck brace may also be given to help keep the neck protected and supported while it initially recovers from the injury.
A chiropractor takes a different approach to help speed the recovery of whiplash. Dr. Levi’s key goal is to reduce pain and make his patients as comfortable as possible. By applying targeted restorative mobility methods, he gently stretches the muscles and adjusts the joints. This allows space for continued healing and ultimately restoring full range of motion before scar tissue can begin to form.
How to Prevent Whiplash
Our number one tip on how to prevent whiplash? Don’t get into an accident! But since most whiplash cases are caused from rear-end accidents that are rarely your fault, here are tips for how to be your safest in your car on a daily basis:
Position your headrest properly
Your car’s headrest is really a misnomer – it’s not for resting your head. It’s for protecting it! Your headrest should be positioned high enough to cushion your whole head in an accident.
Adjust your seat angle
Your seat should be in an upright position and you should try and sit up straight so your spine is supported.
Wear your seatbelt
Seat belts are designed to keep your body in place in your seat which in turn supports and protects you in an accident.
If you’ve experienced whiplash in a car crash or other accident, call our office for an appointment with Dr. Levi before the permanency of your injuries begins to settle in.