When the head is snapped in a back and forth movement quickly, structures within the neck can become injured due to movement beyond the normal range of motion. Damage to the ligaments, muscles and sometimes facet joints in the cervical spine create whiplash syndrome. This type of injury is common in rear-end vehicle accidents. It can also happen as a result of physical trauma or a contact sports injury.
Effective treatment of whiplash syndrome is dependent on an accurate diagnosis of the condition. A complete review of your health history and a thorough examination with diagnostic imaging will provide the information necessary to create the best treatment plan.
Symptoms of Whiplash Syndrome
The most common symptom of whiplash is stiffness and pain in the neck. This usually happens within the first 24 hours after the injury. It is not unusual to feel pain in other areas near the neck as well. Shoulders, the back of the head and the base of the skull may be painful. Flexing or extending the neck increases neck pain. Avoiding painful positions and resting the neck will help relieve the pain.
Other symptoms associated with whiplash may include loss of range of motion of the neck. There may also be tenderness in the shoulders, upper back or arms. Tingling or numbness in the arms may also be experienced.
Some whiplash patients experience headaches, fatigue or dizziness. Additional symptoms may include:
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Sleep problems
- Problems with concentration
- Memory problems
It is important to get medical attention for an accurate diagnosis if you have experienced an accident or incident in which you may have been subjected to whiplash. Getting an accurate diagnosis can rule out any broken bones in the cervical vertebra or other damage which could lead to more serious problems or cause symptoms to become worse.
It is important to share your medical history with your doctor, especially if you continue to have pain several months or longer after your injury. Each person recovers from whiplash differently depending on the severity of the injury.
Individuals who had intense neck pain and more limited range of motion and pain that involved the arms, are more likely to have chronic pain.
Generally, recovery from whiplash syndrome happens within a few weeks; however, some risk factors may affect the outcome. If you have had whiplash in the past, are older, have existing pain in your lower back or neck or you were involved in a high-speed accident, your outcome could be worse than expected.
The severity of your injury will inform the type of treatment you receive. The main objectives are to control the pain, restore the normal range of motion in your neck and help you resume your regular activities.
Soft foam cervical collars are often used in the beginning of recovery to help limit movement, reduce pain and help you sleep. Your doctor will give you instructions on how long and how often to wear the collar. Keeping the neck still for an extended period of time can interfere with your recovery.
Physical therapy may be part of your treatment plan to help with range-of-motion exercises. These exercises can help you feel better and prevent further injury to the muscles. Sometimes transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is used to ease pain and improve the strength of neck muscles.
You may be given exercises to do at home. These may include rolling your shoulders, bending your neck toward your chest, tilting the head from side to side and rotating your neck in both directions. These stretching exercises for your neck help with movement and strengthen neck muscles.
Pain management for whiplash includes resting your neck for the first couple of days after the injury. Applying ice packs and heat interchangeably for about 15-20 minutes a few times every day can help ease the pain. Over-the-counter pain medication may be advised for controlling pain.
Manhattan Sports Therapy uses cutting-edge technology to help relieve pain for effective whiplash treatment. Contact us for an accurate diagnosis and pain relief for your whiplash symptoms. Call today to schedule your appointment.