Neck Pain is often referred to as whiplash. The sudden backward and forward movement of an individual’s head with great force is the main causes of whiplash. Whiplash is more common after the collision of the car from the back however, whiplash can also occur as a result of physical abuse, injuries that occur from sports or riding at amusement parks. For example, whiplash is considered to be a relatively mild condition meaning it is not usually serious however pain and discomfort may be experienced in the long run.
What are the Causes of Whiplash?
Whiplash occurs as a result of strain suffered in the neck due to rapid backward and forward movement. This unexpected movement affects the tendons and ligaments of the neck to stretch and causes tears which leads to whiplash.
Below are the lists of occurrence that can cause Whiplash
- Car accidents
- Physical abuse for example when you are punched or shaken
- Contact sport such as soccer, boxing and karate
- Riding horses
- Cycling accidents
- Head changes position as a result of falls
- Heavy objects hit the head in form of blows
What are the Symptoms of Whiplash?
The symptoms of whiplash usually occur within 24 hours of an incident. Occasionally, it may take several days before the symptoms of whiplash appear and may last for several weeks.
Common Symptoms of Whiplash
- Stiffness and pains at the neck
- Headaches, especially at the base of the skull
- Blurred vision
- Constant fatigue
Less Common Symptoms Associated with Whiplash
- Difficult to concentrate and loss of memory
- Ringing in the ears
- Difficult to sleep well
- Pain in the neck, shoulders or head
Contact your Doctor immediately if
- Symptoms spread to the shoulders or arms
- Experience pain when moving your head
- Experience numbness and or weakness in your arms
Occasionally, the pains that appear on the neck strain are immediate. In other cases, it may take hours or days before you feel any pains on your neck.
A concussion can also occur as a result of a blow that causes neck strain. Due to the fact that concussion can be serious, it is important to seek medical help immediately. You may need urgent medical help if you experience the following; worsened or a persistent headache, you are weak or find it very difficult to speak in speech, confused, dizziness, nausea, excessive sleepiness or unconscious.
How is Whiplash Diagnosed?
Majority of the minor to severe cases of whiplash can be treated at home with the use of prescriptive drugs, ice and other medications or home remedies. However, you should contact your health care professional in the event that you experience the following symptoms:
- Pain or stiffness in the neck that disappears and then returns
- Severe neck pain
- Pain, stiffness or tingling on the shoulders, arms or legs
- Any problems with your bladder or bowel
- Localised weakness in the arm or leg
Questions about your injury will be asked by your doctor, for example, how the injury occured, the location of the pain, and whether the pain is dull, shooting or sharp. Physical examination to determine your range of motion and look for sensitive areas will also be carried out by your doctor.
Your doctor can also make a request for an x-ray. This is done in order to ensure that pain is not related to any other injury or degenerative disease like arthritis.
Other tests such as computer tomography scans and MRI will make it easier for your doctor to assess any damage or inflammation in the soft tissues, spinal cord or nerves. Certain imaging studies, for example diffuse tensor imaging (DTI) or positron emission tomography (PET scan), can offer assistance most especially when there may be a brain injury. These tests will help prevent the pains from spreading and determine the level of an injury to the brain or other parts of the body.
The good news is that with time, whiplash can heal on its own. If you want the recovery to be faster, you should:
Ice your Neck
- This is done in order to reduce pain and swelling as soon as possible after the injury. It is important to get this done for 15 minutes every 3-4 hours for 2-3 days. Wrap the ice in a towel or cloth to prevent skin injury.
Painkillers if recommended by your doctors
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) should relieve pain and swelling. However it is important to follow instructions from your doctor (and consult if you are taking other medicines or have other medical problems) as it is not advisable to use them on a regular basis. If prescription medications do not work, analgesics and muscle relaxants may be needed.
Neck brace or collar to add support
- Not recommended for prolonged use because they can actually weaken the muscles in your neck.
Apply moist heat to the neck
- This should be done only after 2-3 days of making use of ice first. Use heat on the neck only after the initial swelling is reduced. You can use hot and damp towels or take a hot bath.
- You can also try alternative medications for the treatment of pain. Some examples of alternative medications are chiropractic care, massage (that which can relieve some tension in the muscles of the neck), electronic nerve stimulation (that includes weak electrical current to help relieve neck pain) and acupuncture. You can also contact a physiotherapist when you want to hasten your relief from whiplash.
Recovery of Pain Neck
The recovery time depends on the severity of the whiplash. It takes days for most cases of whiplash to be resolved. But other neck strains may take weeks or more to cure them. It is also important to note that recovery time differs based on individuals.
When acute symptoms of neck pain disappear, your doctor will probably want you to begin with rehabilitation. It will make your neck muscles stronger and more flexible. This will help you recover and reduce your chances of straining your neck in the future.
You can start with gentle stretching exercises that become more powerful when you improve. But do not start practicing without talking to a doctor.
Whatever you do, care must be taken as you must not rush things. People who practice sports that involve contacts should pay special attention to being completely cured before re-playing. Your doctor will enlighten you to continue with your activity when you are ready. Do not try to return to the previous level of physical activity until you find it very easy for you to:
- Look at both shoulders without pain or stiffness
- move your head back and forth without pain or stiffness
- Rotate your head from side to side without pain or stiffness
If you start pushing before the healing of your neck, you can end up with chronic neck pain and permanent injuries.