Whiplash is a condition that occurs when a sudden blow forces your neck and head to move in a forward and backward direction. You may feel stiffness and lack of mobility in the neck. Motor vehicle accidents are one of the most common causes though other physical activities may also be responsible.
Whiplash injuries are short-lived and can be treated with physiotherapy exercises. In very rare cases, the patients may experience chronic pain for months after the accident due to severe damage to the neck muscles and tissues.
What causes whiplash?
A forceful hyperextension and hyperflexion of the cervical spine cause whiplash symptoms. Here are the activities that can cause whiplash injuries:
- Automobile accidents
- Contact sports like football
- Cycling accidents
- A sudden fall that impacts the head
- Amusement park rides
So, what exactly happens in Whiplash?
Let’s take a car accident for example.
In the case of a rear-end collision, the head tends to snap back and forth under the impact of a sudden, force. This causes the soft tissues in the neck and spine to move in abrupt directions and stretch past their normal range of motion. Thus, tons of microscopic tears develop in the neck tendons and ligaments.
The condition can heal on its own though it needs some natural treatments to recover efficiently.
What are the Symptoms of Whiplash?
Look out for these signs if you are confused about whether or not you have whiplash:
- Jaw pain
- Neck and back pain
- Arm pain
- Neck stiffness
- Lack of mobility in the neck
- Sensory disturbances
Some people even experience other symptoms such as visual disturbances, memory issues, dizziness, irritability, etc.
When to Ask For Medical Attention?
You should ask for medical attention as soon as possible after the accident. Whiplash may heal on its own but a physiotherapist can make the recovery process quicker and easier for you.
At times, whiplash injuries may heal on their own. However, in rare cases, the pain may spread to your arms and shoulders causing excruciating pain.
You should also consult with a physiotherapist if the pain interferes with your daily life functions.
How to Treat Whiplash Injuries?
Each treatment is specific to each patient. Thus, it is better to follow the treatments under the guidance of a physiotherapist.
- Cold applications
You can apply ice packs on the affected area right after the accident. Do not use the ice directly lest you may worsen the injury. Wrap it in a towel and press gently against the affected area for 5-10 minutes. This reduces swelling and may help you move your neck muscles.
- Heat applications
Heat is beneficial if you experience slight pain due to whiplash. Apply it after the cold applications. Use moist heat during the process. For instance, you can keep a warm wet towel on the hurting area or take a warm bath to relieve the injuries.
It is the best natural treatment for whiplash. The physiotherapist assesses your injuries and symptoms to determine the exact problem. They provide you with exercise prescriptions and lifestyle changes that relieve the condition efficiently.
- Posture corrections
A poor posture puts an abnormal strain on the neck and worsens whiplash injuries. The right posture, on the contrary, heals soft tissue injuries. Physiotherapists can guide you through posture correction techniques to help you achieve your health goals.
- Chiropractic care
Whiplash causes the neck and spinal cord to move in absurd directions. This may misalign the spine and cause further medical problems. Chiropractic care focuses on realigning the spine to provide your neck and the entire body a suitable support.
- An active lifestyle
It may hurt a little if you try to stay active after whiplash. But, it also helps in the recovery process. You can perform specific gentle exercises to release muscle tension and stiffness in the affected areas. A physiotherapist can also guide you through the exercises that you can do safely at home to recover from whiplash injuries.
- Massage therapy
Specific massage therapies can help ease muscle tension and stiffness in the neck muscles. The professional assess your injuries and prescribes light, gentle strokes to reduce your pain and discomfort.
Whiplash is nothing but a neck strain. It can be treated and takes a short period of time to heal.
How is it diagnosed?
The physiotherapy or chiropractor gathers more information about your injury. They may ask you questions such as:
- Is the pain sharp, dull or shooting?
- How did it happen?
- Where do you feel pain?
- Is there a specific movement that’s triggering the pain?
Physiotherapists may perform specific physical exams to identify the tender areas and your range of motion. Imaging tests can help them detect any inflammation in the nerves, spinal cord or soft tissues.
Whiplash is very common but not complicated. You can treat the condition with physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage therapies and more. You are most likely to recover within 3 months.