Whiplash is one of those injuries that typically involves a delayed onset. Whiplash symptoms typically become manifest within 6 to 12 hours after the injury. This makes it hard for victims at the scene of a car accident to recognize that they’ve been injured at all.
They may inadvertently drive home without taking the other party’s insurance information. This is especially true if the accident is a mere fender-bender and the damage appears to only affect the compact car when it hits a large truck bumper. The invisible shockwaves can travel through the vehicle even if it appears to have no damage.
Milder forms of whiplash may take time to resonate as the body assesses the gravity of the damage and starts to increase the level of signaling with movement. The effects of severe whiplash are typically delayed because the drivers are pumped up on adrenaline when they get into a car accident. This type of fight-or-flight mechanism can numb injured occupants and also endow them with superhuman strength.
Mothers have lifted up two-ton vehicles to rescue their children. But once the adrenaline and endorphins wear off, accident victims can start feeling painfully hungover and sick. Let’s explore the subject of whiplash in greater detail below.
Because whiplash involves the jerking motion of the head and neck beyond their normal range of motion, it puts stress on ligaments, tendons, and muscle groups by tearing them. Although it is beneficial to create micro-tears in muscles when lifting weights, excessive tears and tears of fibrous tissues take much longer to heal.
If you have ever sprained your ankle, you know just how long it takes those fibrous tendons in your ankles to heal properly. Furthermore, the jerky movements of the spine can damage and pinch nerves in the vertebrae. Whiplash can be accompanied by neurological problems, herniated discs, and other spinal issues.
Therefore, the pain that is normally experienced in whiplash victims is centralized in the neck, shoulders, and upper back. In order for the body to protect these body parts from further injury, it will release inflammation signals to swell up and stiffen. Any movements can become extremely painful because the body wants to prevent you from tearing the fibers any further.
The pain ranges from mild to achy to sharp, in relation to the extent of the injuries. Stiffness of the neck, shoulder blades, and the muscles in between the shoulder blades are classic symptoms.
Causes for Whiplash
Although car accidents are the leading cause of the neck strains and sprains that are commonly associated with whiplash, these injuries also occur in sports. Football, boxing, and rugby are some of the athletic activities that see the highest volumes of neck sprain injuries that are very similar to whiplash.
Neck strain is typically limited to tearing of the tendons, muscles, and the musculoskeletal connective tissues. Neck sprains are more specifically related to the earing of ligaments and other tissues which connect the bones to other bones.
As a general rule, the more fibrous the tissues, the less blood supply and the lower the volume of healing agents that can reach the damaged site. This is why high-speed accidents that have the extreme force to tear fibrous tissues take so long to heal.
Aside from the trademark pain and stiffness in the base of the head, neck, and shoulder blade regions, there are many other signs that accompany a case of whiplash.
- Concentration Problems
- Memory loss
- Blurry vision
- Feeling irritable
- Mood disorders (depression)
- Sleep problems (insomnia)
How to Treat Whiplash
There are numerous treatment methods for whiplash. Depending on the severity of the case, some treatments may be more effective than others. An emergency room will likely prescribe your pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, and muscle relaxers. You can also try the following treatments.
Using ice packs to reduce the swelling is an important step immediately after an accident. The cold pack will constrict blood flow and reduce the inflammation. It also diminishes nerve signals and temporarily reduces pain symptoms. Ensure that the ice pack is wrapped in a cloth material to buffer the contact with the skin. Apply the ice pack for 15-minute intervals, every three to four hours.
After you have finished your regimen of cold pack therapy, you can switch over to heat compresses, hot baths, and other heat therapy. This therapy is only beneficial after the swelling has subsided. It will temporarily relieve pain and loosen some of the knots that pinch nerves and make movement difficult.
Neck Collars or Braces
A neck collar or brace can help to alleviate the strain on your muscles by reducing movement and allowing them time to heal. However, you should not wear a neck brace or collar for too long because it can adversely weaken the muscles and lead to atrophy and chronic pain. Using a neck brace or collar for the first week or so until the muscles stabilize is a good method for serious injuries.
Numerous types of OTC drugs can be used to treat whiplash if you don’t receive a prescription from a doctor. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) will reduce inflammation, relax muscles, and relieve pain. However, you have to be careful about mixing these drugs with other prescription drugs or alcohol because they can be hard on the liver. Acetaminophen, naproxen, and ibuprofen are all effective NSAIDs for mild to moderate whiplash injuries.
Massages are a great method for whiplash injuries to loosen up the stiffness and to get the blood flowing to heal these areas quickly. Massage therapists have to be mindful of your injuries, however, by taking appropriate precautions to avoid pain and discomfort. They may mix in heat therapy and aromatherapy in a spa setting to achieve the maximum level of relaxation.
Whiplash injuries can linger on indefinitely if the patient does not receive any treatment. Chronic pain can happen when the muscles remain in a stiff posture and put pressure on nerves. The lack of blood flow to the area will make it difficult for the body to repair fibrous tissues on its own. Medications don’t work to increase blood flow, improve posture, or to heal the areas but simply block the pain temporarily.
Chiropractic care uses careful adjustments and manipulations to help the body remember its original state of health. It encourages maximum blood flow to damaged areas and helps patients to overcome the psychosomatic fear of pain that halts them from using muscles and increasing blood flow.
If whiplash is not properly treated, the pain can become chronic when the symptoms do not clear up in six months or less. This can reduce the quality of life by limiting the activities that you can comfortably participate in without pain. The collateral effects may include depression and anxiety. You may also develop a psychosomatic aversion to moving your neck or back at all, which can lead to chronic inflammation.
In the wild, primitive humans did not have the luxury of sitting back and milk an injury. Today, people can become injured and fail to snap back into good health because they develop a psychosomatic aversion when they fail to seek professional treatment. Chiropractic care is the top choice for relief and can be combined with other types of therapy for maximum benefits. Please fill out the contact form below or simply call us to schedule an appointment.