Whiplash is the most common injury associated with vehicle accidents. It can occur even in very minor accidents, and can also affect everyone in the car at the time of the collision. Seeking medical treatment for your whiplash can help you recover faster and help ensure there are no long lasting complications.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is another name for neck strain. When a vehicle stops, jerks, or turns too suddenly due to a collision, the resulting impact can cause the neck to turn or jerk. This sudden force upon the neck and head can result in stretches, tears, and injuries to the muscles and tendons that line your neck.
Whiplash is often a painful injury that is difficult to ignore. Some symptoms may include:
- Pain during head or neck movement
- Decreased range of motion
- Tightness or tenderness of the neck
- Headaches, especially those at the base of the skull that may radiate up towards the forehead
Though known as a painful injury, symptoms do not always appear immediately. The stress of the situation can sometimes mask the pain from whiplash, causing you to feel that you have not been injured. Pain can sometimes appear hours or even days later.
How Long Does Whiplash Last?
Your recovery time depends greatly on the severity of the injury. Minor whiplash will resolve itself within a few days, while more severe cases may take longer. Since everyone heals at their own rate, each patient’s experience will be unique.
Muscles and tendons can lose strength and tighten after injuries, which can result in long lasting pain or re-injury. When the acute symptoms of whiplash have passed, your doctor may recommend rehabilitation to ensure the muscles and tendons are strengthened and flexible again after the injury. Rehabilitation can include gentle stretching of the neck muscles to improve flexibility.
Chronic neck pain can be the result of a whiplash injury that was never able to heal fully, or that is repeatedly re-injured due to lack of complete rehabilitation. Take your recovery slowly and begin with physical activity only when advised by your doctor.
What Kind of Treatments Are Available?
When diagnosing whiplash, your medical provider will consider the specifics of your accident, your pain level, and may use x-rays or other tests to ensure there is not additional neck damage.
The good news is that given enough time, your neck muscles and tendons will heal with the right medical attention, recovery time, and treatment plan. While you should always follow your doctor’s advice, some common treatments can include:
- Icing the neck. This can help reduce the swelling and reduce pain.
- Take painkillers if recommended by your doctor. Anti-inflammatory drugs can help with the pain and swelling, allowing you to rest and recover.
- Neck brace or collar may help some patients. If you need additional support, a neck collar recommended by your doctor can allow your neck to heal without additional strain.
- Other treatments like massage, or moist heat after a few days of icing the area, can also improve your ability to recover from your injuries.
Whiplash is a common injury in an auto accident, but it doesn’t have to hold you back for long. Seeking medical attention quickly can help ensure you have a treatment plan that will help your neck heal and recover from the injury as quickly and fully as possible.