Your neck plays a vital role in your overall productivity. If you are suffering from pain or irritation, it might lessen your efficiency and productivity. One common neck problem is whiplash. It is a neck injury that happens because of excessive force and the continuous movement of your neck. Rear-end accidents are also one of the causes of whiplash. However, physical abuse, accidents, and other traumas can also trigger and result in neck injury.
Whiplash happens when soft tissues like ligaments and muscles in your neck are stretched beyond its normal range. The symptoms are not visible, and you cannot feel it immediately. You might need to pay attention to the changes that are happening in your body after an accident.
With proper treatment, exercise, and medication, people get better in just a few weeks. But some experience long-lasting complications and chronic neck pain if they take the pain for granted.
What causes Whiplash Injuries?
Whiplash happens when your neck suffers from strain because of a rapid continuous backward and forward movement of your body. The aggressive motion causes your neck’s ligaments and tendons to extend and break apart.
Whiplash happens because of the following:
- Car Accidents. Unexpected collisions or rear-end crashes are one of the primary causes of whiplash.
- Assault or Abuse. If you are engaged in a fight or when someone deliberately strikes your head could result in whiplash. It has been seen as one of the injuries that you should treat immediately.
- Contact sports. Sports players are vulnerable to a collision, especially football, basketball, and even volleyball. If you are not careful and mindful while playing, your opponent’s tackles and attack can cause whiplash.
What are the Complications that you can Encounter in Whiplash?
In most cases, people who are suffering from whiplash feel comfortable and better after several weeks. It does not have lasting side effects. But without proper treatment, one can suffer for months and even years.
Here are some of the common complications you can encounter with whiplash:
Neck Stiffness and Reduced Range of Motion
When a person gets a whiplash, besides chronic neck pain, they may also experience stiffness and limited movements. This situation happens when your neck and head muscles’ inflammation worsens, making it challenging for you to move these sensitive parts. When you leave it untreated, it can lead to secondary conditions, affecting most of your body parts.
When you leave your whiplash untreated, it can lead to a spinal complication called ‘vertebrae misalignment.’ It’s when your spine’s vertebrae slips out of place, causing neck mobility issues and resulting in limited communications between your brain and nervous system.
The most common complication of whiplash is chronic headaches and migraine — and this happens when your neck pain begins to radiate towards your forehead, back, and sides of your head. It can also reach your back and shoulders.
Dizziness and Vertigo
The excess pressure in your neck can impede communication in your brain, leading to dizziness and vertigo. These can cause further complications, including falls, as these two can make you feel like you’re spinning even when you’re standing still.
Mental Health Complications
Besides physical complications, leaving whiplash untreated can also take a toll on your mental health. That’s because the constant pain that may be holding you back in your daily routines can hinder your overall quality of life and affect your personal and professional relationships, causing depression or anxiety. Another condition that may develop through untreated whiplash is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That’s because some people may constantly think about or try to forget that accident that caused their whiplash, making them feel paranoid, easily startled, or have difficulty sleeping.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Leaving whiplash untreated can result in severe medical complications long-term, including degenerative disc disease. This condition happens when the discs between your spine’s vertebrae start to break down, leading to excruciating pain, numbness, and weakness. It can tear the fine muscles in your neck and upper back, herniating or dislocating your cervical spine. These can lead to degenerative disc disease, causing symptoms such as upper back to lower back pain and having trouble stretching.
Knowing and predicting the complications of whiplash from person to person is difficult. It is also unclear how long it may take to recover. The severity of the injury also varies with the accident. As a whole, the first symptom and complication of whiplash is intense pain. One can also experience chronic neck pain, numbness, and pain that spreads to your arms and limits your body motion. Some factors trigger and increase the risk of whiplash. It includes the manner where you have a prior untreated whiplash injury. Another factor is your age. In most cases, older people are vulnerable to this injury.
What are the treatments for Whiplash?
Time can heal almost everything. The same goes for whiplash. However, letting it heal on its own can take a long time. To assist you, here are the things that you can do for faster recovery. With the aid of your doctor, you can do the following treatments.
- Rest. In the first 24 hours of your neck injury, the first thing that you need is proper rest. But, make sure that you regulate it because too much rest can delay your recovery.
- Put an Ice pack on your neck. Ice reduces the swelling and the pain caused by your injury. Make it a habit and do this process for 15 minutes daily for one week. All you need to do is cover the ice with a cloth or towel to avoid skin irritation.
- Taking Painkillers. It would be best if you consult your doctor about your medications. Taking painkillers will reduce the pain and help you effectively do your daily tasks. But, remember that the painkillers come with side effects. It would be best if you only use them occasionally and with your doctor’s guidance and prescription.
- Muscle Relaxants. This prescription is advisable to loosen your tight muscles and reduce the pain. This also helps you restore your usual sleeping habit because it will help you sleep and feel comfortable.
- Collar or a Neck Brace. A doctor usually recommends a neck brace for additional support. It is not advisable for long-term use because it can weaken your muscles – making it dependent on the equipment.
- Apply Moist Heat to Your Neck. You can do this process after you finish icing your neck. Do this once the swelling of your neck is gone. You can use warm towels or take a warm bath.
- You can also consider other treatments like having a massage and ultrasound to lessen swelling and pain and for a speedy recovery.
- Exercise. Having a series of movement exercises and stretching can help your body restore your neck’s original range of motion and help you recover faster. You can practice rotating your neck slowly in alternating directions. Tilting your head from one side to the other can also help. You can also roll your shoulders and bend your neck forward to lean on your chest.
- Physical therapy. A treatment plan created and run by an experienced physical therapist or other healthcare professionals can help improve your neck’s strength and flexibility, relieving pressure on your spine and reducing pain caused by whiplash.
- Psychotherapy. If a person develops psychological conditions after attaining a whiplash injury, such as PTSD or depression, a mental health professional can help. They can provide counseling to help you work through the hardships, understand what you’re going through, and manage the problems. Plus, they may also provide medications.
- Acupuncture. This practice involves placing thin needles in different parts of your body, depending on your condition. When done by a professional and licensed acupuncturist, this can help mitigate whiplash symptoms, making your neck pain-free.
- Injections. In severe whiplash cases, your physician may suggest injecting the affected areas to mitigate or treat the pain. These include cervical epidural steroid injection, which can reduce tissue inflammation, and cervical facet joint injection for pain relief within your joints.
- Chiropractic Care. If you want to have a professional to help you, you can look for an experienced chiropractor. They perform joint manipulation that relaxes your entire body. It also provides pain relief anchored with proper exercise and therapy.
How Long Does Whiplash last
A person’s recovery depends on the severity of the case. In general, some heal in just a few days; while others may take longer. Remember that every person has a different healing period.
If you have already gone through neck strain symptoms, your doctor may recommend rehabilitation for faster recovery. The primary aim of this process is to make the muscles of your neck stronger and firmer. It will help you reduce the possibility of severe injury and strain.
You can do stretching exercises but take note, do not start unless your doctor gives you approval. Stretching minimizes the chances of other injuries. Rushing things will not help you recover. Be mindful of the decisions that you make.
Take Good Care of your Health
Pay attention to the things that are happening to you and your health. Make sure that you consult the doctor. You can also contact a chiropractor if you are experiencing joint pain. Chiropractors are skilled and highly specialized in that area and make your life more productive and less stressful.