What is a Whiplash Injury?
Whiplash results from sudden and forced movement to your neck and spine. It is an injury that can damage the musculoskeletal system and is also known as a neck strain, a tear of the muscle or tendon in the neck—often confused with a neck sprain, which is a tear in the ligaments of the neck. This type of injury can result in either short-term or chronic pain.
Identifying Common Causes of Whiplash
As mentioned, you may experience whiplash due to sudden and forced movement to your neck and spine. This means events such as being in an accident involving cars or other motor vehicles can cause this injury. Whiplash is also a common sports injury. Even a fun activity like riding roller coasters can cause whiplash.
How is Whiplash Diagnosed?
Doctors will rule out other severe injuries and conditions to diagnose whiplash using X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans.
What are the Symptoms of Whiplash?
If you have experienced a neck injury and are wondering if it is whiplash, you should be able to use your symptoms as identifiers to confirm it. Just because you may not be experiencing pain immediately does not mean you didn’t experience whiplash. It may take some time (several hours or days) before you begin to notice any neck pain.
You may experience neck pain along with a decreased range of motion and tightness or stiffness in your neck muscles. This can occur when attempting to turn your head and move it side to side and back and forth.
Your neck may be tender to the touch, and your muscles may become hard or knotted.
Finally, the pain may also migrate to other parts of the body. You may experience muscle spasms in your arms and shoulders and headaches that start at the lower back of your head and move toward the front of your head. Your vision may also be affected.
Whiplash Treatment: Remedies to Help Reduce Pain
There are several treatments and remedies for whiplash, varying from at-home options to professional help.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of whiplash, here are some remedies you can try at home to help reduce the pain:
Resting and limiting neck movement is often required to allow your neck to heal correctly and reduce pain.
Use ice the first few days you are experiencing symptoms to help reduce swelling and neck pain. This needs to be done for 15 minutes and around 6-8 times spaced out throughout the day.
If your symptoms continue after the first few days, try applying a warm compress to your neck to help soothe it.
Taking over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) should help reduce neck pain.
Gentle stretching exercises can be a great way to relieve neck pain. However, you shouldn’t attempt this at-home remedy without seeking advice from your doctor.
If you are not experiencing pain relief from at-home remedies and your pain lingers past the first few days after your accident, it is time to seek professional help.
Your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants to relieve pain and muscle spasms.
A neck collar, also known as a cervical collar, can help support your neck. You should only use this if your doctor recommends it, as using it for too long can cause your muscles to become weaker.
Seeking treatment through physical therapy can help increase neck strength while taking pressure off the spine and reducing pain.
Treatments involving the spine are often used for pain management for more severe whiplash injuries. There are various surgeries and injections into the soft tissue of the spinal cord that can significantly reduce your neck pain.
How Long Does a Whiplash Injury Take to Heal?
The amount of time it takes for whiplash to heal can vary from person to person based on how severe of an injury it is. This neck injury should usually start to feel better within a few days and can take months to heal completely. If at-home remedies do not help ease the pain, seeking medical care is crucial.
If you lead a lifestyle involving activities that may aggravate your injury, like playing contact sports, you must be cleared to resume daily activities as usual by your doctor. Even if your symptoms begin to lessen, you may not be fully healed and can risk more significant injury.
Whiplash Treatment at Arizona Pain and Spine Institute
Our team offers several treatments for whiplash injury. These treatments have helped many patients with pain management as their neck heals. If you are experiencing chronic pain from whiplash, book an appointment with us today!