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Whiplash: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Whiplash: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Generally, whiplash is often referred to as neck strain. While it is commonly associated with car accidents, many other impacts cause your head to rapidly move forward and backward. This abrupt motion damage the neck muscles and tendons resulting in whiplash. The condition is common in athletes as well. Since the symptoms do not appear immediately, many people may not consult a doctor. Though remember if it is left untreated, it can affect your health in the long run.

Whiplash injuries can be quite painful and the risks associated with the condition cannot be overlooked. At times, it may take several days or weeks for the symptoms to appear. It is commonly associated with other head injuries as well. The injury remains persistent in rear-end collisions. Many car accident victims recover from whiplash injuries within few weeks if the intensity of damage is low. On the other hand, some people may develop serious complications that last for months or even years.

Symptoms of Whiplash

When we talk about the symptoms of whiplash, the most common ones are certainly neck and upper back pain. The pain generally develops within few days. In rare cases, it may take longer or up to a few weeks or months. The symptoms vary from one individual to another primarily depending on the intensity of pain and existing health condition. While some people experience slight discomfort, others may have one or more serious symptoms. Let’s take a look at some of the common whiplash symptoms.

  • Irregular sensations or tingling
  • Concussion or pain during movement of the head or neck
  • Headache and dizziness
  • Upper back pain and shoulder pain

If the whiplash is severe, it will probably damage the ligaments, intervertebral joints, neck or upper back, or discs. Though in most cases the whiplash injury can be fully recovered.

Limited Range of Motion

Apart from chronic pain, many people experience restricted movements and intense stiffness. Since your head and neck muscles are damaged, it limits the range of motion. If left untreated, it can further result in secondary conditions that sooner or later affect other parts of your body. So make sure to follow the doctor’s instructions whether they recommend you lifestyle modifications or physical therapy sessions.

Vertebrae Misalignment  

Vertebrae misalignment is another common condition that is more likely to occur if left untreated. Your spine vertebrae will slip out of place resulting in mobility problems and restricted communication between the nervous system and brain.

Chronic Headaches and Dizziness

When your head abruptly moves forward, backward, and sideways you may experience headache or migraine radiating throughout the head. In some conditions, it can even reach to shoulders and back. The excessive pressure on the neck can limit communication to your brain resulting in tiredness and dizziness. In complicated conditions, you may feel like revolving around while you are standing still.

Mental Health

If you have read this far, you are more likely to be familiar with physical health conditions associated with whiplash. One major consequence of leaving whiplash untreated is worsening mental health. This impacts your quality of life and personal & professional relationships. Experiencing depression or anxiety can influence multiple aspects of your life.

You may not be able to recover by keeping your mind under constant pressure or stress. Another common mental health condition as a result of whiplash is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The condition is more likely to develop when you constantly think about the incident and losing your ability to recover. You may have concentration issues or difficulty sleeping. Make sure to inform your doctor about any emotional or mental stress you are experiencing post-accident.

Physical Examination

When you visit a doctor regarding whiplash injury treatment and detailed physical examination, you will be asked to perform certain tasks and move your head, neck, and arms. Here’s what doctor is more likely to check:

  • Range of mobility in your shoulders and neck and figure out if there are any limitations
  • Degree of movement that may cause pain
  • Pain in back, neck, and shoulders
  • Irregular sensations and reflexes

Physical Therapy

If you require any help regarding range-of-motion exercises, the doctor is more likely to recommend you visit a physical therapist. It’s a great approach to recover from the underlying injuries and improve your mobility. A physical therapist will comprehensively guide you through varied exercises that can help in strengthening your muscles, enhance body posture, and recover movements. In some cases, another commonly used technique is electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).

In this technique, a mild electric current is applied to the body. It is proved that the treatment can help in easing neck pain and recover muscle strength. The number of these sessions differs from one individual to another. In addition to the physical therapy sessions, the doctor will further guide you on the exercise routine that you must follow at home.

Apart from physical therapy, there are certain non-traditional therapies that can be used to ease whiplash pain.

Chiropractic Care: Chiropractic treatment follows a holistic natural approach to treat pain. They perform manipulation techniques for pain relief combined with physical therapy and routine exercises. It’s an effective approach to treat whiplash without the intake of medication.

Massage and Acupuncture: Neck and back massage can be very soothing and provide short-term relief. On the other hand, the acupuncture technique involves injecting ultrafine needles through specific areas of the body.

Mind-body Therapies: These exercises primarily focus on gentle movements to improve mindfulness and breathing. They commonly include yoga, tai chi, and qi gong.

Suffering from whiplash post-accident is a traumatic experience. You may consider it a simple neck sprain that may occur for the time being, though in reality, it can result in multiple health problems. It is no exaggeration to say that whiplash can be life-threatening. Make sure to get a detailed physical examination to better figure out if there are any physical and mental damages done. Consult a specialized doctor because nothing comes before health.

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