What to Do When You Think You’ve Experienced Whiplash

Whiplash is a common injury that typically occurs due to rear-end car accidents. However, these aren’t the only circumstances where whiplash can happen. Whiplash can also be caused by sporting accidents or falls. Technically, any trauma to the neck may result in this type of injury.

Perhaps you’re wondering if you have a whiplash injury or not. After a recent accident, your neck has gradually become more sore over the following days. You might struggle to move your neck without pain. You might also experience varying degrees of stiffness. So, what’s going on?

In this article, we’re going to explore what whiplash is, how you can determine if you might be experiencing whiplash, and what you can do about it. 

What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a neck injury that results after sudden and forceful back-and-forth movement of the neck. This may result in injury to the discs, muscles, nerves, ligaments, and tendons in the neck, leading to pain and discomfort. 

Common symptoms of whiplash may include:

  • Neck pain
  • Neck stiffness
  • Reduced range of motion of the neck
  • Shoulder and/or low back pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Tingling and/or numbness in the arms and hands
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Irritability

If you have any neck pain or any of the above symptoms after an accident, it’s important to seek out a proper diagnosis from your doctor or local physiotherapist. This is because these symptoms can indicate other and more serious problems. It’s also important for your doctor to rule out broken bones or other damage.

How Do You Know If You’ve Got Whiplash?

As previously mentioned, whiplash often results due to a car accident, physical trauma, or contact sports. If you recently experienced an injury or accident similar to the above and are experiencing neck pain, you might have whiplash.

While many people with whiplash feel better after a few weeks, it can help to visit your doctor or physiotherapist to get a proper diagnosis.

For diagnosing whiplash, your doctor will perform a thorough medical history and physical exam. They may further order X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans to rule out other injuries. 

From there, your doctor will recommend an appropriate course of treatment, which often involves physiotherapy.

Whiplash Treatment & Recovery

The goal of whiplash treatment is to decrease pain, restore function and movement of the neck, and help you return to your regular activities. 

While treatment depends on the severity of your injury, usually, it involves the following.

Rest 

Too much bed rest is never recommended. However, it might make sense to take it easy over the first couple of days of your injury, especially when your pain levels are high. During this time, it’s important to address your pain using the below remedies. 

Hot & Cold Therapy

Initially, ice applications can help reduce pain and swelling within the first 24 hours. Apply an ice pack for 15 minutes every three hours. To combat stiffness and muscle tightness after this initial period, heat can be used for 15 minutes at a time to help relax your muscles and the surrounding tissue. 

Over-the-Counter Pain Medications

Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can help reduce your pain, especially in mild to moderate cases. These types of medications should only be taken for a short period of time. Use of these drugs for 10 days or more can lead to side effects, such as gastrointestinal problems.

Physiotherapy & Exercise

For ongoing pain and reduced range of motion management, regular visits to a physiotherapist can help you get back to your normal activities as safely and as quickly as possible. 

A physiotherapist will prescribe appropriate exercises to help improve your neck range of motion, improve your posture, and strengthen your muscles. 

Recommended exercises may include:

  • Head rotations
  • Side-to-side head and neck movements
  • Extension and flexion of your head and neck
  • Rolling the shoulders

Additionally, your physiotherapist may use modalities, such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). TENS involves the use of a mild electrical current, which helps reduce pain and discomfort. 

Again, your exact treatment plan may vary depending on the severity and type of injury you’re experiencing. Prior to any treatment, your physiotherapist will perform a thorough assessment, ensuring they address your unique needs. 

How Long Does Whiplash Last?

For many individuals, whiplash goes away all on its own within a few weeks. However, others might find the pain and mobility limitations linger for months or years, which is why it’s crucial to seek out proper treatment early on. 

How long whiplash lasts may further depend on your at-home treatment of your injury. For example, it’s not advised to perform activities that increase your pain. It’s also recommended to not sleep on your front as this can aggravate the neck further. Instead, you want to sleep with your head and neck supported, such as with a pillow or towel rolled up underneath.

Corydon Physiotherapy: Your Local Winnipeg Physiotherapist

If you’ve experienced a whiplash injury, the Corydon Physiotherapy team can help you make a full and smooth recovery. Our caring and compassionate team understands the frustration involved when pain happens. Together, we can work toward eliminating your pain and getting your back to your regular activities. 

Call us at 204-900-8307 or email us at corydonp@mymts.net to book your appointment today and to say goodbye to neck pain for good.

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Sarah Driediger, RMT, CLT

Come back soon for Sarah's bio!

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