A whiplash or a neck strain is an injury commonly sustained from car accidents. It’s caused by the sudden forward or backward jerk of the neck, which occurs in the moment of a collision or a skidding halt. The force over-stretches and tears the muscles and tendons in the neck, resulting in pain and possible complications if left untreated.
A neck strain can be confused with a neck sprain since the two have nearly identical causes, symptoms, and treatment. The difference of a neck sprain, however, is that instead of a tear in the tendon, it is the ligaments and tissues connecting the muscle and bone that get torn.
That said, let’s go over everything we need to know about whiplashes, and why you can’t leave them untreated.
Causes and Symptoms
Aside from a car accident, whiplash can also be caused by amusement park rides (usually a roller coaster), physical assault, and sports. The symptoms are as follows:
- pain and decreased range of motion
- stiffness in the neck (the feeling of having a knotted muscle)
- pain when bobbing your head or craning your neck
- pain and stiffness when turning to look over your shoulders
- headaches at the base of your skull extending to your forehead
In some cases, symptoms aren’t felt immediately until several hours or a few days have passed. That’s why it’s extremely important to receive urgent medical care once you experienced an injury that strained your neck. Police involvement might be necessary in a car accident or physical assault incident.
Pain Management and Treatment
Doctors often prescribe Tylenol or aspirin to treat whiplash. In relatively severe cases, prescription painkillers and muscle relaxants may be required. Physical therapy is also advised along with medication, though you may also consider an effective chiropractic therapy specifically designed for whiplash injuries in Lehi, Utah, or any other location.
While you recover, apply ice to your neck for 15 minutes every 3-4 hours daily, for 2-3 days. You may also apply a heat compress, if your doctor or therapist recommends it.
Whiplash patients are often given neck braces to wear, so keep yours on for as long as your doctor recommends it, typically only a little over 3 hours daily within the first couple of days after the injury. Neck braces aren’t supposed to be worn for a long period of time as it can actually weaken the muscles.
If you also bumped your head during the accident that caused your whiplash, there’s a chance that you’ve also contracted concussion, which may affect your speech, make you dizzy, nauseous, confused and unusually sleepy.
Chronic pain and headaches years after your injury may occur as well. As for long-term complications, cases are rare, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Most people fortunately recover within three months of treatment.
Since a car accident is the leading cause of whiplash, here are some tips to ensure that your head and neck will remain protected during a crash:
- Select an auto with a good rear-crash rating.
- Position your seat’s head restraint directly behind your head or at least behind the top of your ears. It should be set back at least 4 inches away from the back of your head.
- Always wear your seatbelt, even if you’re seated at the back.
- Observe a proper sitting posture, or your adjusted head restraints won’t serve their purpose. Sitting upright is also important in amusement park rides.
- Avoid tailgating to have enough allowance when you need to brake.
- Anticipate the impact when you see a crash on your way, or before a roller coaster plunges to a steep rail. This allows you to position your head and neck right, minimizing the force they’ll experience.
But even with preventive measures practiced, a whiplash may still be unavoidable, especially in situations beyond your control, such as an assault incident. It this case, call the right authorities and get urgent medical care.