WHAT IS WHIPLASH?
Imagine yourself driving when a car behind you rear-ends your vehicle. The impact pushes your car forward. It takes about 100 milliseconds for your body to catch up to the forward movement. Your shoulders travel forward until they are under your head, and your neck extends forward as your head tilts slightly down toward your steering wheel. You step on the brakes, bringing the car to an abrupt halt. The sudden stop throws your head and neck backward, and they bounce against the headrest. In a matter of seconds, you’ve experienced the classic mechanism of injury for whiplash.
About 20 percent of people involved in rear-end collisions later experience symptoms that center in the neck region. Although most of these people recover quickly, a small number develop chronic conditions that result in severe pain and sometimes disability.
SYMPTOMS OF WHIPLASH
If you find yourself in a traumatic situation where your neck is jolted back and forth pay attention to changes in your neck over the next few days. If you have pain that gets worse with motion, swelling, loss of range of motion, headaches, tenderness or numbness in your upper extremities, dizziness, or unexplained fatigue, than you are exhibiting symptoms that could be whiplash. If you experience any of these symptoms you really should make an appointment with a physician for treatment for whiplash or other more serious spine issues that could also present similarly from the same trauma.
Most cases of whiplash do resolve within a few weeks but can be delayed as you age or repeat the injury. More serious conditions such as ruptured discs, fractures, and nerve impingements can also exhibit the same symptoms, so reach out for a spine surgeon or a member of our spine team for evaluation as soon as symptoms present.
What’s the Treatment for Whiplash?
Whiplash should heal on its own in time, but to help with your recovery, these are a few things you can do:
- Ice your neck as soon as possible after the injury. Doing this for 15 minutes every 3 hours or so should help to reduce pain and swelling. Do this for 2 to 3 day or until swelling noticeably decreases. Make sure to wrap ice in a thin towel or cloth to prevent injury to the skin
- Take non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, Aleve, Advil, or Motrin to help with pain and swelling. Check with your doctor to see which medication may be right for you
Consider using a neck brace to reduce movement and prevent any further injury of the neck if your doctor recommends it. Neck braces and collars are not recommended for long-term use because they can weaken the muscles over time
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