Immediate Help for Your Whiplash Injury

Hollywood movie makers like to outfit car crash victims in neck collars, because it gives the audience an unmistakable visual reminder of the accident and helps sell the pain factor. But it’s not just a prop, and the plot is based in truth — rear-end car collisions cause a violent snap of the head and neck that strains the muscles and causes a condition called whiplash.

But you don’t have to be in an auto accident to experience whiplash. It can happen to you any time your head is forced forward and back in a way that can’t be controlled or supported by your neck. Although your neck is incredibly flexible and has an impressive range of motion, it does have its limits — and whiplash occurs when those limits are exceeded.

Understandably, neck pain and stiffness go hand-in-hand with whiplash, but surprisingly, it may not set in right away. That doesn’t mean the injury isn’t there, it just means the symptoms are delayed. Our team at Regency Pain & Therapy Institute have lots of experience detecting whiplash and evaluating the extent of the damage. 

This is important, because knowing what to do immediately after your injury and during the days and weeks that follow can dictate whether you have any complications (like recurring headaches) or chronic pain that lasts way beyond the normal healing time for this injury. That’s why we’ve put together this whiplash guide to help you navigate your neck pain.

How to care for whiplash

Although the name whiplash is a wonderfully illustrative word that lets you know exactly what it means, the technical medical condition is a muscle strain, a ligament sprain, or both. Knowing what you’re dealing with takes the mystery out of the injury and makes it more familiar. Treatment, of course, depends on the severity of the damage.

Mild cases will resolve on their own over the course of a few days or weeks, and moderate cases may take a bit longer. Severe whiplash may require professional medical attention. Here’s the progression of the process.

Immediately after your whiplash accident

As long as your whiplash and any other injuries you may have sustained are not serious, start treating your neck with ice or cold packs. Inflammation is your body’s way of sending healing factors to your injury site, but if the inflammation hangs around, it becomes the source of pain itself. Ice constricts your blood vessels and reduces swelling. 

The first few days following your accident

Keep applying ice for the first two days, and then you can alternate with a heating pad. As your muscles tighten in response to the injury, the heat will relax them and ease pain.

Rest is one of the most important steps in your whiplash recovery. Avoid any movements or positions that cause pain, and try to keep your head and neck in a position of rest and painlessness. 

But don’t stay in one spot too long. Remember that neck collar we talked about? Although it can keep you from aggravating already strained and sprained tissues, it can also lead to atrophy and muscle weakness, so make sure you don’t wear it all the time and keep moving in gentle and controlled ways. 

Taking OTC pain medication, especially anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, is often all it takes to get most whiplash sufferers past their worst symptoms.

If your whiplash symptoms persist

After four or five days (give it a week or two if your injury is more than mild), you should notice improvement in your symptoms — less pain and more mobility. But if your whiplash symptoms aren’t going away or are getting worse, it’s time to seek medical attention. 

At Arlington Pain & Therapy, we offer state-of-the-art technology, time-honored traditional techniques, and proven interventional treatments that approach your injury from multiple angles. In this way, we make sure nothing gets missed and that you get the benefit of multiple disciplines. Your treatment may include:

We take a team approach to your health, and our doctors are experts in the fields of pain management, sports medicine, neuromusculoskeletal issues, and physical therapy, so no matter what’s causing your pain, we’ve got you covered. 

Whiplash can be painful, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. You can avoid long-term issues by coming in for a complete evaluation of your injuries after an accident, and by beginning early treatment that can keep pain to a minimum and speed up your healing. 

If you suspect you have whiplash, give us a call at our Mansfield facility or schedule an appointment online, and find out the best way to treat your neck pain. 

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