The Basics of Whiplash You Should Know
What is Whiplash
Whiplash is the most common form of injury sustained in a car collision. Any abrupt impact that causes movement of the neck, even at speeds as low as 4mph, can damage ligaments and irritate nerves which then results in whiplash.
The neck moves beyond its usual range of motion, causing ligaments, muscles, and tendons to become overstretched.
Whiplash injuries have four common causes:
- Rear-end car accidents
- Sports accidents
- Physical assault or blows to the head with a heavy object
When tissues in the neck are stretched beyond their normal capacity, it can cause pain and stiffness and can hamper movements.
It is essential to understand that whiplash symptoms may not generally occur immediately. Most of them occur within the first 24 hours after the incident. common symptoms may include:
- Neck discomfort: pain, tenderness, swelling, or stiffness
- Headaches, particularly towards the base of the skull
- Numbness or tingling sensations in the arms
- Spasms or weakness of the muscles
- Limited range of motion and stiffness
Other less common symptoms:
- Vertigo (the feeling that you or your surroundings are moving or spinning)
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Swallowing difficulties or blurred vision
- Irritability or difficulty concentrating
- Sleep disturbances
How is Whiplash Diagnosed?
Following any impact of 5mph or more, you should seek a medical exam by a physician, especially a chiropractic physician who is one of the most qualified to diagnose whiplash.
In addition to a thorough medical history and physical examination, diagnostics for whiplash may include an X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computed tomography (CT Scan).
Whether your injury is mild or severe there are a variety of ways to treat whiplash. The most common and effective are Chiropractic Care, Massage Therapy, and Physical Therapy.
Chiropractic care after car accidents is considered by many to be the first line of defense after whiplash occurs.
Chiropractic care is designed to realign the injured spine to allow ligaments to heal properly and to alleviate pain by removing pressure from the injured nerve roots. Additionally, muscle spasms are often reduced by properly aligning the spine and other joints.
The best whiplash treatment plan will incorporate therapeutic Massage, stretching, electrical muscle stimulation, and heat or cold therapy, and should include a home care regimen.
The type of physical therapy needed for whiplash varies and may be based on the injury severity. Physical therapists typically utilize the following procedures to treat whiplash:
- heat or cold treatment
- electrical stimulation
- range-of-motion exercises
In extreme circumstances, your physical therapist may also recommend muscle relaxants.
Massage therapy is designed to reduce inflammation, muscle spasms, and tense tissues that put pressure on joints and ligaments resulting in pain. That pressure contributes greatly to the pain cycle. Therapeutic Massage helps your body return to its natural relaxed state so you can heal.
Other treatments tend to involve:
- prescription pain medications
- muscle relaxants
- application of cold or heat to the injured area
Most people recover from whiplash in days or weeks, but persistent issues can endure months or even years. Fortunately, there are several solutions to this problem. While most function best when utilized as quickly as possible, there are still techniques to manage chronic pain and other concerns caused by whiplash.