Although it is possible to injure your neck in other ways, auto accidents are the most common way whiplash occurs. The fast, sudden jerking backward then forward that causes whiplash happens in even the smallest collisions, which is why it’s such a common injury in car accidents.
At all three locations of Apex Medical Center, our staff of experts treat whiplash. We advise you to seek treatment, even if you don’t think you have a neck injury, for several reasons. In some cases, it takes a day or two for the injury to become evident; but the earlier you get care, the better your outcome is likely to be.
What happens when you get whiplash
Your neck supports your head, and undergoes a fair amount of strain under normal circumstances. But, when you’re involved in an auto accident, your head whips backward then forward quickly, with force, and beyond your normal range of motion. That movement can damage the soft tissues in your neck, leading neck strain or neck sprain, commonly known as whiplash.
For the vast majority of people who get whiplash, the injury clears up within a few days. For some people, it takes a few weeks, and for some, a few months. For about 10%, whiplash results in chronic pain that interferes with their normal activities.
Whiplash is a soft tissue injury. That means muscles, tendons, and ligaments can be affected. Researchers have recently discovered that people with lingering issues after whiplash often have more damage to their ligaments than is immediately apparent.
How whiplash is treated
Immediately after your injury, we may suggest over-the-counter medications to help control pain and inflammation.Cold compresses may help, as well. Rest is very important for the first day or two.
Once your neck has begun to heal, we may recommend physical therapy to help strengthen the injured tissues. Specific, very gentle, stretches may help restore flexibility and range of motion.
We don’t recommend wearing a collar to hold your neck still for long periods of time. That can cause your muscles to weaken further and delay healing. However, in some cases, using a collar for a short period of time to redistribute the weight of your head may be advisable, and you may find you can sleep better wearing a collar.
The amount of injury and pain in whiplash can vary drastically from person to person. Another reason to seek care soon after you’re injured is that we can make recommendations based on your specific situation, and change those recommendations as time goes on and you heal.
As specialists in pain management, we want to help you avoid chronic pain. With whiplash, it’s important to monitor your healing so that we can take appropriate steps as necessary. If you’ve been in an auto accident or otherwise injured your neck, schedule an appointment at one of our three convenient locations.