Whiplash is a common neck injury that happens when a person’s head abruptly moves backward and forward with significant force. It’s most common following a car accident, but it may also occur due to sports injury, physical abuse, and riding extreme amusement park rides. The medical condition results when the soft tissues of your neck stretch beyond their standard range of motion.
It’s worth noting that your symptoms may not appear for a while, making it crucial for you to pay attention to any physical changes for a few days following an accident. Luckily it’s a mild condition and usually goes away on its own, but it may cause long-term pain and discomfort.
With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about the medical condition—from how it affects your body, diagnosis, possible treatments to alternative remedies, helping you heal in no time.
How Does Whiplash Affect Your Body?
Besides the standard neck pain, you may develop several symptoms down the line due to your whiplash. Keep in mind that it isn’t restrained to just damaging your neck area, but it may also harm other body parts.
The symptoms may develop after a couple of days and can last for weeks to months when not addressed immediately.
Here’s how the medical condition can affect your body:
- It may cause dizziness accompanied by blurred vision.
- It may affect your memory, causing loss of concentration and constant weariness.
- It can cause constant ringing in your ears, leading to headaches, primarily on your skull’s base.
- It can lead to bowel and bladder issues.
Some of these symptoms are more severe than others, but once you experience any of them, it’s best to immediately visit a doctor. Plus, these can happen anytime after the accident, so you must be aware of any changes to your body after getting into an accident that resulted in your neck injury.
How Does Whiplash Get Diagnosed?
Most mild and moderate neck injuries can be treated by patients at home using several treatments like ice therapy and a neck collar. However, if you’re experiencing debilitating symptoms like severe neck pain or stiffness, it’s time to visit your doctor.
Your physician will usually ask you questions about your neck injury, like how it happened, where the pain is most prominent, and what type of ‘pain’ you are experiencing. Depending on their findings, they may do a physical exam to check your neck’s range of motion and seek tender areas.
Your doctor may also order an X-ray to ensure your pain isn’t associated with other injuries or degenerative diseases like arthritis. Depending on the severity, doctors may also request additional tests like CT scans and an MRI, allowing them to assess further damages or inflammation in your neck’s muscles and ligaments, spinal cord, and surrounding nerves.
Treatment of neck injuries usually focuses on mitigating pain and stiffness in the neck area, healing damage to the surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments—and most patients will usually experience a significant improvement in just a couple of days. In fact, according to the National Health Services, in 60% of whiplash cases, all symptoms clear up entirely in one to four weeks.
However, some individuals may still experience symptoms several months after the accident that caused the injury. If that’s the case, the following treatments can help mitigate pain and other symptoms.
- Ice Pack – A classic yet efficient way of mitigating neck pain is by applying an ice pack right after the injury happens, reducing inflammation. However, make sure to place the ice pack in any form of protective barrier to prevent it from making direct contact with the skin and cause further damage. Place an icepack in the affected area for at least 10 to 30 minutes.
- Exercise – If your neck injury is relatively mild or moderate and doesn’t restrain you from moving it, take advantage of it and move your neck around. Regularly moving your neck can prevent it from stiffening and making the injury worse. However, remember only to exercise it gently when pain levels allow it. Additionally, only do exercises under the directions of a medical professional.
- Painkillers – Pain medications like Tylenol can help reduce neck pain, with most doctors advise patients to regularly take painkillers, not just when the pain becomes unbearable. However, keep in mind to stay within the required dose to avoid any complications later on. Meanwhile, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can reduce swelling. But make sure to always consult with your physician before taking any pain medication.
- Injections and Muscle Relaxants – Corticosteroid injections can help with neck muscle spasms, relieving pain temporarily. If you’re not too keen on injecting yourself, using muscle relaxants can also ease muscle spasms. However, they can cause drowsiness, so it’s best to take them before going to bed.
- Neck Collars – A soft foam neck collar used to be the standard treatment for neck injuries. However, immobilizing the neck for extended periods may undermine recovery since it can reduce muscle bulk and strength. But it’s still efficient, as long as you use it right. Generally, it’s best to wear it for no more than 3 hours a time.
If you’ve tried all the treatment methods and yet it doesn’t help with your case, it’s time to see your doctor and get a prompt and thorough diagnosis that may cause or worsen symptoms.
Finally, a great and efficient alternative that can help treat your neck injury long-term is getting chiropractic care. The primary treatment chiropractors use to treat whiplash, or other related muscle dysfunctions is natural muscle stimulation or relaxation, including gentle stretches to tensed muscles and repeated contractions of restricted muscles.
If you’re looking for a reliable professional to help you deal with your injury, Dr. Norman O’Dell is a seasoned and well-decorated chiropractor. He provides complete care for all patients through gentle and precise chiropractic techniques. Besides treating neck pain, he can also treat back pain and shoulder pain, improving range of motion and restoring normal nerve function, helping you achieve optimal wellness.
Treat your whiplash today to help you get your old life back with the help of Dr. Norman O’Dell, offering you the best services possible.