Whiplash is a common neck injury that happens after an injury to the neck’s soft tissues, including muscles, tendons and ligaments. It is typically caused by a strong force or strange motion on the neck that causes the neck to extend out of its usual range of motion. Whiplash tends to occur in sports, falls, assault, amusement park rides and motor vehicle accidents.
Injuries from whiplash can vary in severity. Physical therapy is recommended for people who experience moderate to severe whiplash. The majority of people who experience whiplash can recover in a matter of weeks, though more serious cases lead to chronic discomfort and pain following the injury.
Symptoms tend to surface within 24 hours after the whiplash incident. However, sometimes symptoms can take several days to surface. Common whiplash symptoms include:
- Neck stiffness and pain
- Blurred vision
While long-term chronic whiplash symptoms can include:
- Ear ringing
- Inability to fall asleep or have good sleep
- Issues with memory and concentration
It is important to visit a doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Numbness, pain, tingling in your arms, legs or shoulders
- Intense neck pain
- Neck pain or stiffness that comes and goes
- Issues with bowel or bladder movements
It is rare for someone to have long-term issues due to whiplash. At most, recovery time can take anywhere between a few days to a few weeks. Most people make a complete recovery within three months. However, some people with whiplash injuries experience chronic headaches or pain long after the accident. Damaged discs, ligaments and neck joints are often causes of chronic whiplash injuries.
Whiplash injuries can be quite difficult to understand since they are more complex and still being studied. However, there are some commonly known related conditions such as:
- Disc herniation – The accident can damage vertebrae discs and create tiny tears, which causes the disc’s inner core to protrude through the outer core. A herniated disc occurs when the disc’s inner core contacts and irritates a nerve root.
- Joint Dysfunction – A joint in the limbs or spine can lose its shock absorption and natural resiliency, which can cause pain and limited range of motion.
It is common for a doctor to ask questions regarding the incident and the injury to find out where the pain is, as well as the type of pain. The doctor might perform a physical examination to test your range of motion and find tender areas. It is also possible to have an X-ray to make sure that the pain isn’t associated with another injury or disease, such as arthritis. Other possible tests include MRIs and CT scans.
Whiplash treatments are quite straightforward. Pain relief medication such as aspirin or Tylenol is often given to mild cases of whiplash. People with severe injuries may be given muscle relaxants and prescription painkillers. Aside from medication, physical therapy is an important part of recovery.
Alternative treatments for whiplash injuries are also an effective option. Acupuncture, chiropractic care, electronic nerve stimulation and massages are all ideal for whiplash injuries.