If you have ever been involved in a car accident where you were rear-ended, you may have experienced whiplash firsthand. It’s a common injury that can go away within a few days, but it also has the potential to become a source of chronic neck pain.
It’s easy to get whiplash from this kind of accident, because the head is suddenly accelerated forward, and quickly decelerated backward from the force of the motion. It can put an enormous amount of strain on the muscles in the neck, leading to a painful long-term condition.
Sudden forceful movements like this type of car accident can damage the ligaments and tendons in the neck. These muscles are extremely important, as they help support the vertebrae that hold the neck and head up.
Besides car accidents, it’s possible to get whiplash from many other kinds of accidents, like sports injuries and physical abuse. Athletes are often thrown into unnatural positions in contact sports, which can cause the neck to snap backwards and forwards. Repetitive motions like throwing, or falling awkwardly on an arm or a leg during a game can also make an athlete more prone to injury.
Women are more likely to develop the kind of pain associated with whiplash because their neck muscles are not as strong as men’s. Stronger neck muscles act as a better form of protection and a buffer for the spine during trauma.
Most whiplash will resolve on its own over time (usually a few weeks), but if the muscles have been strained enough it may last much longer, becoming a more debilitating, chronic condition.
The most common symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, and stiffness of the neck muscles. Other secondary symptoms can include blurred vision, dizziness and fatigue, depending on the severity of the injury or accident that caused the whiplash. Whiplash can be differentiated from regular neck pain if a headache is also present, signaling medical attention is needed
In situations of chronic whiplash pain, patients can experience an even wider range of symptoms, including trouble with concentration and memory, ringing in the ears, difficulty sleeping, and being easily irritable. Whiplash can be extremely painful, especially with a combination of other spinal injuries, but it is a benign condition that will eventually resolve itself.
If you feel pain in the shoulders or arms, or it is difficult to move your head, these may be symptoms of a more severe condition, such as a herniated disc or a pinched nerve.
The main form of treatment for disc herniations is by administering medication. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are usually recommended to help reduce swelling in the neck muscles. At times, the use of medication is enough to allow the pain from whiplash to resolve on its own.
If medication does not help to relieve the pain, injections can be administered directly into the painful muscles. Injections for this kind of pain consist of pain medication and steroids, to help locally relieve pain and reduce swelling.
Sometimes, NSAIDs and other medications become too diluted in the bloodstream to provide enough pain relief to the exact location of pain, which is why injections can come in handy. Muscle relaxants can also be used to help relieve any stiffness felt in the neck muscles.
As with many conditions that cause chronic pain, a multi-faceted approach to pain management is usually recommended. Chronic pain does not always go away with just one form of treatment, such as medicine, and treatment usually yields better results when many different aspects are targeted. By combining medications with other more intensive forms of treatment, such as physical therapy, patients are more likely to completely relieve their symptoms and once again live a pain-free life.
Other treatments, like icing the effected area to reduce swelling can provide excellent benefits as well. After the initial injury, applying heat pads to the area instead of ice can help to ease muscle stiffness and allow the patient to move more easily again.
There are a number of other forms of treatment, if these more conservative options fail to produce the ideal results. Ultrasound treatments, which help to decrease swelling, can be performed, and chiropractic care can also help to relieve pressure placed on the spine from the injury. These pain management treatments help to reduce the chance of further injury done to other parts of the body because of the natural adjustments your body makes to compensate for damaged vertebrae.
If you have been involved in a car accident or other injury that has given you symptoms of whiplash, it is important to remember that it is treatable. Seeking medical attention early helps to ensure the best results and a more complete recovery.