Whiplash affects the cervical spine, which is more commonly known as your neck. The injury can occur due to the sudden jerking, or whipping, of the neck. Whiplash injuries most frequently result from rear-end auto collisions, physical assault or playing contact sports, like football. Some whiplash sufferers won’t experience any obvious symptoms, but in others whiplash will cause the neck to become sore and stiff.
If you’ve been in a car accident, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible to get treatment for any potential injuries, including whiplash, which is one of the most prevalent injuries suffered in motor vehicle accidents.
Symptoms of Whiplash
One of the most common and obvious signs of whiplash is neck pain, which may range from mild to severe depending on the severity of the injury. You may also notice your neck is stiff and you have difficulties moving your head. The pain in your neck may radiate down to your shoulders and arms. Keep in mind, the onset of whiplash is often slow and gradual. Many people experience no symptoms immediately following their accident, only to discover they’re in pain hours or even days after their car crash.
Other ways in which whiplash may manifest include:
- Low back pain
- Pain or numbness in arms and hands
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty concentrating
- Ringing in the ears
Understandably, many of the symptoms of whiplash may be downplayed or mistaken for other conditions. Seeing a doctor after your accident will ensure a proper diagnosis and prompt treatment.
How Is Whiplash Diagnosed?
Whiplash diagnosis usually consists of a thorough interview, physical examination and imaging tests. Your doctor will ask detailed questions about your symptoms. They will then ask you to move your head, shoulders and arms to check your range of motion and evaluate the severity of your pain.
Your doctor may also order imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans of the head and neck area. MRI scans produce detailed, three-dimensional images and can be used to detect damage to your neck and other parts of your spinal cord.
The goal of any effective whiplash treatment should be twofold—alleviate pain and other symptoms and promote healing to help patients make a full recovery.
Many cases of whiplash are mild enough to respond to at-home remedies. Your doctor may recommend plenty of rest and over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and applying heat or cold to your neck. If these simple remedies prove ineffective, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications and recommend gentle exercise.
While most people will recover from whiplash within days, there will be those whose whiplash becomes chronic. Although rare, symptoms of whiplash may intensify and linger for weeks or even months on end.
Doctors don’t have a clear explanation as to why whiplash becomes chronic in some cases. It’s believed prior neck injury and old age may prolong healing.
If you’re one of the few people whose whiplash turns chronic, your doctor will likely recommend physical therapy, as well as steroid or PRP injections.
Physical therapy may include exercise sessions with a physical therapist who can help you feel better by devising a personalized exercise routine you can do with or without their supervision. Consistency is key when it comes to physical therapy, and it may take you several weeks of regular exercise to experience a reduction in pain or an improved range of motion.
Treat Your Neck and Back Pain at AllSpine Laser and Surgery Center in Georgia
Whether you’ve been in a car accident or are suffering from a chronic condition, we invite you to schedule an appointment with one of our skilled spine specialists. While we do offer a diverse array of surgical options, we will explore other non-invasive therapies before recommending surgery.
To schedule your consultation in Stockbridge, Newnan or Decatur, call (770) 997-0600 or send us a message.