The car screeches to a sudden stop. A split second later there’s a loud crash. “Baaaannnnng!” If you have ever had the unfortunate experience of being involved in an auto accident, you most likely have suffered from whiplash. It is a typical result of a rear-end automobile collision. As the name suggests, during the collision your neck and head are tossed violently forward and back, just like the lash of a whip. The sudden movement of your head pushes your neck muscles and ligaments beyond their normal range of motion, leading to the tearing of ligaments, muscles, and other soft tissues. A car accident that happens in the blink of an eye may have you blinking back tears of pain in the weeks following the accident. With whiplash, the initial pain and stiffness in your neck can seem to go away after a few days. However the discomfort frequently returns and can bring with it:
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty concentrating
- Herniated disc
- Jaw Pain
- Joint dysfunction
- Memory problems
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Numbness and tingling pain in the jaw or face
- Ringing in the ears
- Sleep disturbances
With a long list of symptoms, whiplash can take a toll on your day to day activities. Don’t ignore whiplash and hope that it just goes away. Whiplash can happen in seconds but lasts for weeks. Here are six ways to treat whiplash:
The first day or two after the injury, limit your head and neck to only essential movements. Keeping the neck still for a short time can calm inflammation and ease pain. Avoid intense sports or aerobics. Temporarily use a neck brace or a soft cervical neck collar (after advice from your doctor)to immobilize the head and neck. However, it should NOT be worn for more than three hours at a time and for more than 48 hours. Wearing it longer may weaken the neck muscles and cause the neck muscles to shrink, extending your recovery period.
2. Keep It Cool. Ice It.
Reducing swelling immediately after the injury is critical. Wrap an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas in a towel and place it on the affected area for 20 – 30 minutes. Repeating this every 3 – 4 hours for the first 3 – 4 days after the injury. This will help numb the area and reduce the pain and swelling.
3. Pay a visit to a Physiotherapist
If you haven’t sought medical attention yet, visiting a physiotherapist is a step in the right direction. Whiplash can take a long time to fully heal, anywhere from months to years. The healing time depends greatly on what tissue type is damaged. Highly vascular filled tissues like muscles heal quicker than low vascular tissue such as ligaments.
People who suffer from whiplash often get treated with multiple healing methods, including physiotherapy, massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic. At pt Health Sturgeon Valley, our team will perform diagnostic tests to determine the extent of your injury. After a thorough assessment, we will tailor a treatment specifically for you to help you prepare to go back to work. Serving the St. Albert and Edmonton area for 23 years, we provide a unique circle of care approach to supporting you in your journey towards rehabilitation, injury prevention and achieving optimal health. We have an experienced team who are your very own circle of care. Imagine yourself at the center of the circle. Now Imagine a team of healthcare professionals around you, listening to you, communicating with each other and working together to ensure that you get the best possible care. With a hands on one-on-one personalized approach, we work with your doctor, your massage therapist, and your chiropractor to help you learn to do your day- to-day activities in ways that keep your neck safe and free of extra strain.
4. Stay Mobile
Once the immediate swelling and irritation starts to go down (within two to three days after the injury), it is recommended that you engage in slow, gentle neck exercises. Our skilled physiotherapist will help you increase the range of motion and improve neck strength by prescribing a range of physical therapy exercises that will keep both your joints and neck mobile, making for a faster recovery. We encourage you to stay mobile after experiencing whiplash. Although this may seem counterintuitive, resting your neck for too long can delay recovery.
5. Pain Relief Medications
While pain relief medications won’t speed up the healing process, they will help you manage the pain related symptoms caused by whiplash (check with your doctor first). Considering using painkillers (Tylenol, Aleve, Advil), and anti-inflammatory drugs at the beginning of the injury to reduce the pain, stiffness, and soreness. If the pain lingers, it is best to seek your medical doctor or a physiotherapist for further diagnosis and treatment.
- A cervical support pillow may be used providing your neck additional support while sleeping.
- Don’t sit or sit in the same position all day, take regular 30-minute break intervals. Stand up, stretch and exercise your neck.
- Ensure that you practice strengthening exercises several times a day to keep your neck muscles strong and limber.
- Always maintain an upright posture while sitting, standing and walking.
- Massage and acupuncture may be useful to improve circulation and blood flow around the affected area.