The most common injury sustained in a car accident is whiplash, a form of neck strain that can occur in even very mild crashes. For many people, it will be hours or even days after the crash before they begin to notice the pain, and it may worsen over time. A natural question for anyone suffering from whiplash is how long the pain will last and when they can expect to recover. The answer depends on a number of factors, including the decision to visit a College Park orthopedics specialist. Proper treatment can help shorten the length of your whiplash and prevent chronic problems from developing.
How Does Whiplash Happen?
While whiplash is its own condition, it is a form of neck strain or sprain that happens when the soft tissues are stretched beyond their normal capability and sustain damage. When the head is suddenly thrown backward, forward, or sideways, the quick and unnatural movement can lead to these injuries. The impact of a car accident commonly causes this sort of motion, making whiplash common in these instances. It can also occur if you are hit in the head or suffer a slip and fall that cause a jerking motion.
Neck pain, headaches, stiffness, and a loss of motion in the neck are the most common signs that you are suffering from whiplash. In some cases, you may also feel dizzy, disoriented, or nauseous. These symptoms often appear slowly after the accident and can worsen for days before you realize that you have suffered from whiplash.
Common Treatment of Whiplash
Usually, basic treatment and caution are enough to treat whiplash and it will clear up easily. Pain reduction is an early goal, with over the counter medication and a combination of ice and heat is recommended. It is also important to not stay immobile, instead doing some simple exercises to help relieve symptoms and speed up recovery. For this reason, most chiropractors do not recommend a neck brace or collar that impedes movement, as it can make symptoms worse.
While movement is encouraged, during periods of rest it is recommended you use a firm pillow and keep your neck in a neutral position. Tilting of the neck can worsen symptoms as well.
In cases of long-term whiplash, physical therapy or other forms of rehabilitation may be recommended to reduce pain and work towards full functionality. The painkillers that are used for immediate whiplash systems may be harmful taken over an extensive period of time, so alternative pain management can become important as well.
How Long Does Whiplash Last?
Whiplash can vary in seriousness, meaning the duration of the injury can vary as well. When treated properly, many cases of whiplash will be mostly relieved in four to six weeks, but this is just a guideline.
Some people will suffer from what is known as chronic whiplash, which is diagnosed when whiplash symptoms persist for more than 6 months. A small portion of sufferers will even experience whiplash-related discomfort for the rest of their life. When someone has chronic whiplash, typical activities may become difficult, making it hard to work or participate in leisure activities.
Once your initial symptoms have cleared up, your care provider may recommend continued exercises or physical therapy to prevent re-injury. As they heal, muscles and tendons can lose strength and tightness, leaving them more vulnerable after healing. This continued care can prevent chronic whiplash from becoming a problem.
You will always be at some risk of suffering from whiplash, especially if you regularly use a car for travel. Wearing a seatbelt is always important for your safety. In addition, you can do some regular exercises even without an injury to strengthen your neck and shoulder muscles.
If an injury does occur, the most important thing you can do is act quickly. If you recognize any symptoms of whiplash, visiting a College Park chiropractor immediately will allow you to undergo the proper diagnostic scans and develop a personalized treatment plan that can encourage fast and complete healing.
At AICA College Park, our multidisciplinary team specializes in treating injuries sustained in car accidents, including whiplash. With access to updated diagnostic technology, chiropractors, neurologists, orthopedic doctors, and physical therapists, we are able to offer comprehensive care to those who have suffered from a car accident. If you have recently been in an accident and worry you may be suffering from whiplash, ice the painful area and then contact us for a consultation. Early intervention can prevent lifelong complications and chronic pain, as well as ruling out any more severe issues.