A whiplash injury occurs when your neck suddenly moves back and forth with force causing stretching and overextension of the muscles and ligaments in the neck. Whiplash injuries commonly occur in auto accidents, especially in rear-end collisions. It can also occur in any event that causes your neck to jerk back and forth like in sports injuries, falling from a horse or bike, blows to the head, or any other trauma to the neck.
The symptoms of whiplash are evident one day after the injury but in some instances, they can occur after many days. The symptoms are relieved by painkillers and avoiding strain in the neck, but in some instances, they can persist causing chronic pain which requires a doctor’s intervention. Chronic pain can reduce your performance at work or school but Dr. Bart Gatz in Greenacres can treat it and help you to carry on with life pain-free.
Table of Contents
What Are the Symptoms of Whiplash Injury?
When you have had a whiplash injury, your neck will hurt and become stiff. Trying to move your neck will worsen the neck and because of the stiffness, the neck becomes hard to move. The pain might radiate to the shoulders and arms. The pain may be worse in touch. Whiplash also presents with headaches starting at the base of the skull and moving towards the forehead.
You may also experience dizziness and fatigue. Other symptoms include irritability, blurred vision, tinnitus, difficulty sleeping, impaired memory, and numbness in the upper limbs. The symptoms may be worse in older people, people who had a prior neck injury or whiplash injury, and after high impact accidents. These people are more likely to experience chronic pain after whiplash injuries.
A diagnosis of a whiplash injury is made after the doctor reviews your symptoms and takes a history of the events leading to the injury. The doctor will then examine your neck and may order imaging tests like x-ray or MRI to rule out fractures or other causes of neck pain like arthritis. It is important to see a doctor when you experience these symptoms because the neck houses many nerves including the phrenic nerve which supplies the diaphragm and is needed for breathing.
How Is Whiplash Injury Treated?
You can take care of mild symptoms of whiplash at home by using cold compresses or with ice to relieve the pain. Ice also helps to reduce the swelling on the neck. You should use the ice when it is wrapped with a piece of cloth to avoid hurting the skin. This will work when you use the ice for about 20 minutes for 6 times a day.
You can also use warm compresses after the treatment with ice for about 3 days. This also helps to reduce swelling and pain. Avoid trying to move your neck if it is already stiff because you might cause further damage. Massaging can also help to relieve pain and discomfort. You can also use mild painkillers for the pain. The doctor might recommend a neck collar to support your neck.
How Can You Prevent Whiplash Injury?
When in a car, you should adjust the head restraint of your car seat to a height close to your ears and tilt it forward to reduce the distance to the back of your head. Always ensure that you fasten your safety belt because it will hold you in a static position in case of an accident. Always sit upright in the car’s seat to maximize the protection from the head restraint.
When buying a car, it might help to consider one that has a great rating for rear-crashes. In case you notice that you are about to get in a car accident, it would help to lean on the head restraint to secure your neck. Avoid engaging in activities that you are not experienced in like horse riding as they put you at risk for a whiplash injury. Practice neck strengthening exercises.
Whiplash injury happens when your neck jerks back and forth suddenly causing the soft tissues to overstretch. It presents itself with neck pain and stiffness, headaches, and tenderness, and can be prevented by using seat belts, adjusting the head restraint on the car seat, and sitting upright while in the car.