When you hear “whiplash” you might think of a character in a film or TV show feigning injury to win a law suit. While that might sometimes happen, whiplash is actually a common injury suffered by thousands of individuals every year and can cause considerable pain and discomfort.
What is Whiplash?
The Mayo Clinic defines whiplash as an injury to the neck that occurs when your head gets snapped back and then forward suddenly. The sudden, violent motion causes your neck muscles and associated ligaments to move far past their normal range of motion. Like the sudden cracking of a bull-whip, the hyper extension of your neck can cause pain, swelling and may lead to more serious complications. Most whiplash sufferers recover quickly from the injury with little or no further complications. Others may suffer chronic pain and a wide range of associated symptoms for a longer time.
Some common causes
The most common symptoms related to a whiplash injury are pain and stiffness in your neck. If you suffer whiplash, you'll find these and other symptoms beginning to appear within a day after your injury. Some other common symptoms you may experience are headache, fatigue, dizziness or blurry vision.
Less common whiplash symptoms may include ringing in the ears, memory and concentration issues and a feeling of irritability. The pain and discomfort, in many cases, leads to issues with fatigue and problems sleeping.
Testing and Treatment
It is very important to see your doctor immediately after a whiplash injury. If you notice symptoms developing, your doctor will prescribe diagnostic examinations to make sure the injuries aren't more severe. X-rays, MRI and CT Scans can all assist in identifying the extent of the damage you have suffered from the accident.
After examining you, the doctor will prescribe a course of physical therapy and range of motion exercises to promote faster healing. Your therapist can offer treatment using ice, heat and ultrasound to ease your pain and promote healing. Some people achieve positive results from myofascial release therapy to release trigger point tension in the injured muscles. Your doctor may also recommend wearing a cervical collar to ease your discomfort while sleeping after a whiplash injury. These medical devices are helpful, but should only be worn during the first few days after the injury. Wearing them longer can make your recovery take longer and can cause decreased muscle strength and tone.
Over the counter analgesics work to alleviate whiplash pain in most cases. If your pain is more intense, injections of lidocaine, a short regimen of prescription strength pain killers and muscle relaxants often help. Just be cautious when taking prescription medications as they may cause drowsiness. If you think you might be suffering from a whiplash injury, see your doctor right away. Early diagnosis and treatment will help the injury heal faster as well as help alleviate pain.