Headaches are common after a car accident, along with other simple aches and pain. Not only did your body suffer from trauma, but you may be stressed from all the logistics of a crash. So if your head is pounding, you may be wondering if it even means anything. Is a headache a sign of an injury? Do you need to visit a whiplash chiropractor? While not all headaches after a car crash are due to whiplash, the condition is very common and can often lead to headaches as a side effect. This is so common that the side effect has been termed a “whiplash headache” and a telltale sign is a pain localized to the back of the head, radiating through the rest of the head or behind the eyes.
Why Do Whiplash Headaches Happen?
Like it sounds, whiplash headaches are directly related to the injury of whiplash. This is one of the most common car accident injuries, though whiplash can also occur due to sports injuries, falls, strong blows to the head, or riding accidents. These scenarios all involve the head being jerked violently backward and forward in a very short period of time. This traumatic force on the neck and head can cause the soft tissues in the neck to become strained or even torn, leading to complications in the surrounding area. Bones in the neck can also be affected when the vertebrae shift slightly out of place. Both the bones and the muscles can be inflamed, or swollen. All of this damage so near the head can lead to aches and pains in the head, manifesting as headaches.
In addition to headaches, a number of other symptoms may appear and hint that whiplash is the culprit. Pain in the neck, shoulders, or upper back is very likely with whiplash, and range of motion in these areas can be limited.
One thing to note about whiplash is that it’s very common for symptoms, including headaches, to not appear immediately following the injury. Shock or adrenaline can lead you to go hours or days without feeling the impact of whiplash, though the injury is still present and may be swelling or worsening in that time period. When headaches do finally appear, they may be severe for this reason.
Easing Symptoms of a Whiplash Headache
If you begin to notice signs of a whiplash headache, there are some steps you can take to relieve pain on your own while waiting for your appointment at the whiplash chiropractor. People tend to prefer heat therapy, applied to the base of the neck, for whiplash headaches, as ice therapy may worsen the pain. Small amounts of over-the-counter pain medication can be helpful, especially ibuprofen or anything with anti-inflammatory properties.
While these can be helpful tips to relieve pain, it is always important to seek professional care for whiplash, as they can address the root of the issue and prevent further injury.
Treating Whiplash Headaches
When you do visit a whiplash chiropractor, there are a range of treatment options on how to treat whiplash and headaches. Depending on the severity and nature of your whiplash, your whiplash treatment may be different than another patient’s treatment.
Doctors may start by recommending medications, either over-the-counter or prescription, that can help to reduce inflammation or manage pain as the injury heals. Contrary to popular media portrayals, most cases of whiplash are better treated without the use of a neck brace or stabilizing device. In fact, it is better to expose the neck to gentle but normal use in order to help the muscles strengthen and not lose mobility. This process may be helped with physical therapy, using guided exercise to return the neck to the previous levels of flexibility and range of motion.
A whiplash chiropractor will pair these methods with chiropractic adjustments that make sure the spine is in alignment, especially if your headaches are a result of a slightly shifted vertebrae.
Will My Whiplash Headache Go Away?
Most people are able to find short-term relief from a whiplash headache with home treatment, but the pain then returns, especially in times of stress. This is why it is important to see a whiplash chiropractor who can address the root cause of the issue with a proper treatment plan. At AICA College Park, our chiropractors are specialists in accident-related injuries, including whiplash and associated problems. We will develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses your pain, long and short term. Contact AICA College Park today to begin finding pain relief!