Whiplash occurs once the neck of an individual is whipped back and forward abruptly. The injury is the most common in rear-end vehicular collisions but it can also occur from sports injuries, physical abuse or riding amusement park rides.
Once the soft tissues, particularly the ligaments and muscles of the neck overly extend beyond their normal range of motion, whiplash occurs. The symptoms are not evident initially, which is why it is important to pay close attention to any physical changes after the accident. Even though whiplash is a mild condition, it can cause long-term discomfort and pain.
The symptoms typically manifest within 24 hours after the accident
that causes the injury. Nevertheless, in some cases the symptoms can develop a few days after and can last for several weeks.
- Pain in the neck and stiffness
- Headache at the base of the skull
- Blurry vision
Less common symptoms linked with chronic whiplash include ringing in the ears, difficulty with concentration and memory, inability to sleep and irritability. It is important to consult with your doctor if the symptoms have spread to the arms or shoulders or if moving the head causes pain or there is weakness in the arms.
When to see a doctor
You can treat majority of mild to moderate whiplash injuries at home using ice and over-the-counter medications. Nevertheless, it is important to seek medical care if symptoms such as pain or stiffness in the neck that persists, severe neck pain, bladder or bowel issues and numbness in the arms, legs are present.
Your doctor will ask questions regarding the incident, where the pain is, how it occurred and if the pain is sharp or dull. The doctor performs a physical examination to check the range of motion and determine areas of tenderness.
An X-ray is requested in order to ensure that the pain is not linked to other types of injuries or diseases such as arthritis. The doctor requests an MRI or CT scan to assess damage on the soft tissues, nerves or the spinal cord.
Treatment of whiplash
The treatment for a whiplash injury is simple. Provide over-the-counter pain medications. As for severe cases, it would require prescribed painkillers and muscle relaxants to minimize the muscle spasms.[youtube url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z83kgv3GXzE”]
Aside from medication, physical therapy is necessary for better recovery. Apply ice or heat to the area and perform simple exercises to establish strength and flexibility in your neck.
Use a foam collar to provide stability to the neck. Use the collars for more than 3 hours at a time and used the initial days after the injury. Overusing the collars can shrink the neck muscles, thus extending the recovery period.