Watch for these signs that you might have whiplash
If you suspect you have whiplash, it’s always a good idea to have a doctor examine you. Whiplash injuries affect up to three million people each year, and many of those cases followed a car accident.
Whiplash results when the head and neck jerk in a rapid back-and-forth movement following an impact. This motion can result in injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves. Even if pain and symptoms don’t develop immediately, you should still seek medical care following any accident.
What makes whiplash more likely after a crash?
While everyone should get medical attention after a car accident, there are some situations that make whiplash more likely such as:
- Another car rear-ending yours while both vehicles are moving
- An impact from behind while your vehicle is stopped
- A surprise, unexpected impact
In addition, women, people with a history of back pain, older adults and those with already tight muscles have an increased chance of whiplash.
How does a doctor know if I have whiplash?
When you visit the doctor after a car accident, he or she will review your medical history, ask about any symptoms and perform physical and neurological examinations. Your doctor will check the range of motion in your shoulders and neck and test for tenderness in your neck, shoulders and back. In addition, he or she will measure the degree of motion you can tolerate without pain and check your reflexes and strength in your limbs.
Your doctor also might order a computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to look at your soft tissues. Unfortunately, even if your scans don’t indicate any injury, it’s still possible that you have whiplash. Micro-tears in tissues, for example, are too small for CT or MRI scans to detect in some cases.
The goals in treating whiplash are to control your pain, restore range of motion in your neck and to help you resume your normal activities. Your healthcare provider will recommend treatment for your specific case, depending on your age, the severity of your condition and your overall health.
Typically, initial treatment for whiplash includes:
- A day or two of rest
- Ice applied to the area for 15 minutes at a time for the first couple of days and then alternately heat and ice up to six times a day
- Range of motion exercises
- Over-the-counter pain relievers such
- Medication to relax the impacted muscles
Your doctor might also recommend physical therapy or a series of exercises. Helpful exercises include neck rotations, shoulder rolls, head tilts and more. Your doctor or physical therapist will demonstrate how to do these exercises properly. In addition, you might receive alternative treatments, such as acupuncture or massage.
Soft foam collars used to be standard treatment for whiplash; however, they aren’t used much anymore because immobilizing the neck for long periods of time can delay recovery. In severe cases, surgery might be required.
If you suspect you might have whiplash, it’s important to get to the doctor immediately so that you can begin treatment. As soon as possible, please contact our team of personal injury lawyers for a free consultation and case evaluation so you understand your legal rights with your personal injury.