Whiplash - You Might Have Ignored This Neck Injury

Whiplash - You Might Have Ignored This Neck Injury

When a car gets involved in an accident or collision, the people inside may experience a sudden rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck with great force that leads to neck injury called whiplash. It is a common injury that occurs to 3 million people in a year, according to some estimates.

Many of us might ignore this condition due to a lack of understanding of the injury. When left untreated, it may lead to chronic pain and affect your mental health causing anxiety and depression.

Most people with whiplash might recover quickly without experiencing any chronic symptoms but some might experience symptoms for years after the injury. Our innovative care strategies at Fyzical Therapy And Balance Centre will help you find quick relief. 

What is Whiplash And How Does It Occur?

The term “Whiplash” is mostly used to describe neck strains. It is often caused due to car accidents that make the neck move backward and forward with heavy force.

The term "whiplash injury" is used to describe the damage that affects both the bone structures and soft tissues, while "whiplash associated disorders" is used to describe a more severe and chronic condition.

Whiplash is caused due to two separate injuries. Initially, when the head and neck move backward they are forced into an extensive motion hyperextension that opens a joint. The next injury occurs as soon as the head and neck move forward and are forced into a position called hyperflexion. As a result, the soft tissues in the neck such as ligaments, tendons, and discs are affected.

Whiplash not only occurs due to the incident explained earlier in this article, but it also occurs due to cycling accidents, falls that make the head violently snap backward, physical abuse such as being punched, horseback riding accidents, contact sports like football or blows to the head with a heavy object.

Symptoms of Whiplash

Symptoms of whiplash may occur within 24 hours of the accident. The symptoms may include

  • Neck pain
  • Headache
  • Stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Pain in the upper back, arms and shoulder
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms
  • Blurred vision
  • Inability to sleep well
  • Limited range of motion
  • Difficulty with concentration and memory
  • Irritability

How is Whiplash Diagnosed?

During the physical examination, your physician will ask you to perform some movements to check the range of motion in your neck and shoulder, the level of pain caused in the neck and strength in limbs.

Whiplash cannot be diagnosed easily with standard X-Rays, but specialized imaging tests like CT scan or Magnetic Resonance Imaging could diagnose the damaged ligaments, tendons or discs.

Physical Therapy Treatment methods

The accident could have damaged the soft tissues of the neck, so with the help of physical therapy, you can treat them.

1) Hot/Cold Therapy

Heat therapy helps in increasing the flow of blood that can reduce pain in the targeted area by providing additional oxygen and nutrients. Heat pads or heated clothes can be used to stimulate the blood flow thereby removing the waste byproducts created by muscle spasms. Whereas, cold therapy uses cold packs or ice packs that control the blood flow to reduce pain, inflammation, and muscle spasms.

You can treat yourself with first-aid when you are injured in any type of the above-said accidents. Wrap ice in a cloth and apply it to your neck. Then use a heat pack and ice pack alternatively. This will help to relax tense muscles, increase blood circulation and promote faster recovery.

2) Deep tissue Massage

This therapy is addressed to the neck and upper back areas where muscle tension occurred and led to stubbornness and stiffness as a result of whiplash. The physical therapist will apply direct pressure and friction to the affected area that will release tension in soft tissues like ligaments, tendons, and discs.

3) Ultrasound Therapy

It is a known fact that ultrasound will assist in increasing blood circulation. Ultrasound waves are sent deep into your muscle tissues, which creates a gentle heat and increases circulation and healing. This results in the reduction of muscle spasms, stiffness, pain, and inflammation.

4) Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation(TENS)

TENS is an electrical stimulation technique that deals with the pain and inflammation caused by whiplash. This technique is effective when combined with other physical therapies like massage therapy and strengthening exercises.

A TENS unit is a battery-powered device that sends electrical impulses through the electrodes that are attached to the areas of pain. These electrical impulses stimulate the nerve tissues to block the transmission of pain signals in the body. Endorphins, the natural painkillers of the human body, are also increased in this process.

Final Thoughts

Whiplash is a common injury but it should not be ignored or left untreated. Some people might not show any symptoms in the early days but the pain will increase in the further days.

Also, it is not good to rest after a whiplash injury even though you feel like resting. If you stay inactive for more than a few days after the injury, it will make the muscles in your neck, shoulders, and back get stiff and weak. Hence it is advised to see your therapist for better assistance.

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  1. Hey, it was an amazing article thanks for sharing.
    Keep up the good work.