What causes whiplash?

Whiplash occurs when an individual is involved in an accident where they are thrown forward and then backward. This type of violent motion can tear ligaments and tendons, causes severe neck pain. While this can be extremely painful, in most cases, the body eventually heals. In the meantime, what should you do to alleviate the pain and suffering? Below are some tips for dealing with whiplash.

Treatment of whiplash

Try icing your neck. The ice will alleviate some of the pain and reduce swelling. It will also promote healing. You will want to do this off and on over the course of the first 2 or 3 days.

The treatment of whiplash in the first few weeks and months usually involves strength training and body mechanics instruction. Patients who do not get better after about 12 weeks require specialized treatment, often from a spine specialist, based on the cause of the pain.

Strength training is necessary to develop sufficient muscle strength to be able to hold the head and neck in positions of good posture at rest and during activity. Strengthening the muscles will also improve their range of motion. Sometimes the pain can be related to the neck and upper back muscles trying to hold up the person’s head. This can be difficult, especially after a whiplash injury.

Body mechanics describes the interrelationship between the head, neck, upper body and low back during movement and at rest. Training in proper posture decreases the stress on muscles, discs, and vertebrae, giving damaged tissue the chance to heal. Poor posture and body mechanics unbalance the spine and create high stress on the neck, which may impede healing.

Some medications are available, which temporarily alleviate the pain

Medications are helpful for symptom control. They never solve the problem and should be used as just one part of a total treatment program. There is no best medicine for neck pain. The choice of medication depends on the type, severity, and duration of the pain. It also depends on the general medical condition of the patient. Types of medications that are most often prescribed for acute neck pain include anti-inflammatory drugs and opioid (narcotic) pain relievers. Additionally, your health care professional may prescribe the use of muscle relaxants. For chronic and severe neck pain, opioid analgesics and antidepressants are generally most helpful.

Injections

Spinal injections can be helpful in carefully selected patients. Again, injections do not cure the problem and should be only one part of a comprehensive treatment program. Epidural injections into the spinal canal can provide short-term relief in cases of nerve compression with arm pain but are rarely effective for pure disc pain without radiating symptoms.

Facet (zygopophysial) injections may help temporarily with neck pain and are usually tried before radiofrequency neurotomy. Radiofrequency neurotomy (RFN) is a procedure that heats the nerves to stop them from conducting pain signals but is only useful for facet joint pain. It can help for about nine to 18 months and then can be repeated if needed and should only be considered in chronic situations with significant pain.

Therapy

Spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) is usually provided by chiropractors, osteopaths or specially trained physical therapists. SMT can provide relief from symptoms for many patients and is generally safe. SMT should be combined with strength training and body mechanics instruction.

Surgery

Surgery for chronic neck pain is hardly ever necessary. However, surgery can be helpful when there is severe pain arising from one or two discs and the patient is very disabled, psychologically healthy and has not gotten better with nonoperative care. Surgery is done more often when there is pressure on a nerve or the spinal cord.

Do you have whiplash after a car accident?

Whiplash usually isn’t permanent or severe. However, depending on the injury and the situation, whiplash can lead to a severe injury. You may be required to have surgery, therapy, and you may suffer in pain for months. If you or someone you know has whiplash after a car accident, and they are unable to work, have needed surgery, or are unable to function as they did before, we may be able to help. They are entitled to compensation. Complete our form and one of our staff members will contact you as soon as possible. You can also contact us directly at (865) 888-8888.