Whiplash, also known as neck strain, is most commonly associated with car accidents; however, it can be caused by anything that causes your neck to suddenly jerk forward and backward, past its normal range of motion. The sudden movement can cause the tendons and muscles of your neck to stretch uncomfortably and even tear. In addition to car accidents, minor and professional athletes who play contact sports will often suffer from whiplash.
After an injury or car accident, the symptoms of whiplash may appear right away or they can take a few days to surface. The pain can be very intense, and include:
With a complete physical examination and questions about recent events that may have caused the whiplash, your doctor will be able to diagnose you. They may require some imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI in order to rule out any other issues or injuries.
While whiplash should heal on its own, there are a number of things you can do to help your body recover. Over the counter medications can help manage your pain, while using cold compresses should reduce swelling. After two or three days of cold compresses, you can switch to using heat instead to help increase blood flow to the area. Your doctor might also recommend a neck brace to allow the muscles and tendons to rest; however, this is not a long term solution, as it can cause your neck muscles to weaken over time.
Most cases of whiplash, no matter the cause, should resolve in a few days, but if the injury was more severe, it may take up to a few weeks. Once the initial pain is reduced, your doctor may have you start rehabilitation and physical therapy that consists of stretching and strengthening exercises for your neck muscles. Not only will this help diminish your symptoms now, but it will help reduce your chances of getting whiplash again in the future. The key to properly healing from a whiplash injury is to be patient; everyone heals at a different rate and it is paramount that you do not push your body too hard.
You don’t need to live with the pain of a neck strain. If you were recently in a car accident or are suffering from whiplash because of a sports injury, the Florida Spine Institute has the best and most modern treatment options to deal with the cause of your pain. We are here to help you get pain-free, every step of the way.