One of the most common types of injuries sustained during a car crash is whiplash, a soft tissue injury caused by the sudden jerking movements the body makes upon impact. Even a low-impact collision like being rear-ended can cause this damage to the muscles and ligaments in the neck, causing them to become inflamed or even torn. While the condition heals over time, it can be painful and cause a loss in movement while it heals. Depending on the severity of the injury, it may carry long term consequences when not treated properly by a whiplash chiropractor.
Cause and Symptoms of Whiplash
When your car is hit in an accident, your head is likely to jolt forward, backward, or sideways as a result of the impact. This sudden and potentially violent movement is outside of our body’s normal practice and can damage the delicate ligaments or tendons in the neck, causing pain and other potential issues.
While whiplash is extremely common and can be treated, there are steps that can be taken to prevent the damage from occurring in the first place. Always wear your seatbelt while driving to prevent not only whiplash, but other more serious car accident injuries. Adjusting your headrest to a position that lets your neck relax comfortably can also be helpful.
Signs of whiplash may not begin to appear immediately following the accident, but may slowly become apparent in the following hours or days. Neck pain, a loss of motion, and headaches are all typically the first indications of whiplash, while some people also suffer from dizziness, fatigue, and numbness or tingling in the arms. In more severe cases, you may experience blurred vision, trouble sleeping, or issues with memory and concentration. Any symptoms should be evaluated by a whiplash chiropractor who can determine the severity of the damage.
Effects of Whiplash
Once you begin treatment for whiplash, the time period it takes to recover can vary based on the severity of the crash and the injury itself. Most commonly, whiplash is fully healed within about six months of the incident, but about one-third of people report neck pain ten years later. A smaller fraction experience chronic pain at the site of the whiplash for the rest of their lives.
You may get a sense of your outlook based on your initial weeks with whiplash. Excruciating pain may indicate a higher chance of lingering effects. Pre-existing issues like arthritis, chronic headaches, or neck pain may also lead to a longer recovery period or permanent effects.
When whiplash exceeds six months, it is known as chronic whiplash. This condition is usually treated with pain management and physical therapy. Keeping your head and neck mobile throughout this period is important and can help reduce the time you suffer from chronic whiplash.
Visiting a whiplash chiropractor as soon as possible after sustaining an injury is a critical component to overcoming it. A hands-on examination allows the doctor to address immediate pain and determine the appropriate next steps. The more proactive you are about addressing the injury, the more likely you are to make a full recovery.
Depending on the intensity of your whiplash, you may be provided a range of options to address the pain and heal the tissue. Before you are able to get to the doctor, heat therapy can be an effective way to reduce pain. Damp, warm towels or a hot bath may loosen up the muscles and tendons and bring some relief.
Your doctor may ask you to wear a collar or neck brace to prevent too much movement and support your neck as it heals. If used too much, these devices may cause your muscles to weaken, but your chiropractor can advise you on when to wear them for maximum results.
Whiplash can also be addressed using a combination of spinal adjustments, stabilization exercises, massage, stretching, and rest. Your chiropractor and physical therapists should work with you to determine the best balance of these activities for your specific case.
At AICA Atlanta, our team specializes in car accident-related injuries like whiplash. This means that our team is made up of chiropractors, physical therapists, pain management specialists, neurologists, and orthopedists who will work together to develop a plan specifically geared towards a fast and lasting recovery. If you may have suffered whiplash, contact AICA Atlanta today to schedule an initial consultation.