How to recognize and treat whiplash
Whiplashis an injury that results from a sudden jerking back and forth motion of the neck.
- The symptoms include neck pain, dizziness, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, and more.
- Most people recover from whiplash in three months or less, though it could be longer.
Whiplash is a neck injury caused by a sudden, forceful motion that jolts the neck back and forth.
Some of the most common causes of whiplash include motor vehicle accidents or sports injuries, says Ronny Ghazal, MD, an orthopedic and sports medicine doctor at Redlands Community Hospital Spine and Joint Institute.
Whiplash can be painful, but it's rare for people to develop long-term complications from this injury, Ghazal says. Treatment can include over-the-counter pain relievers and physical therapy.
Symptoms of whiplash
The injury usually involves trauma to the muscles, discs, nerves, and tendons in your neck, says Ghazal.
This can result in symptoms like:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Reduced range of motion in the neck
- Headaches that typically start at the base of the skull
- Tenderness in the upper body
- Tingling or numbness in the arms
- Fatigue and difficulty sleeping
- Upper back and shoulder pain
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty with memory or concentration
- Ringing in the ears
For some people, neck pain occurs immediately, but the delayed onset of neck pain about 24 to 48 hours later is also very common, says Jeremy Smith, MD, Chief of Spine Surgery at the Hoag Orthopedic Institute.
Causes of whiplash
Any sudden backward and forward jerking motion can cause whiplash injury, Smith says. The most common cause of whiplash is a rear-end car accident.
Other less common causes of whiplash include:
- Assault or physical abuse
- Sports injuries, most commonly collisions, like football tackles
If you believe you are experiencing whiplash, consult a doctor even if your symptoms seem mild since, given the nature of whiplash, it's possible you could have a more serious injury like fractures or dislocations of the cervical spine, Ghazal says.
If left untreated, these injuries can lead to partial or complete paralysis.
Treatments for whiplash
Treatment for whiplash will depend on the severity of your injury and whether you have a pre-existing spinal or neck injury.
If your pain and stiffness are mild, you should be able to treat your symptoms at home, Ghazal says. Treatment may include:
- Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers, like ibuprofen or naproxen.
- Gentle range of motion exercises, like slowly turning your head left to right or up and down.
- Icing or heating the neck for the first 24 hours.
- The use of support devices, like a neck brace.
In some cases, a doctor might offer prescription medication, like muscle relaxers, which can help relieve pain, Ghazal says. Physical therapy may be another option if your symptoms persist for longer than three months.
How long does it take to heal from whiplash?
The time it takes to recover from whiplash depends on the severity of the accident or event that caused the injury. Most people typically start to feel better in about three months or less, Smith says, though some people may develop pain that lasts for years.
"Whiplash injuries can last a long time, sometimes six months to a year or longer," Smith says. "They can create long-term disability and severely worsen quality of life in rare circumstances."
Your risk of developing chronic pain from whiplash is higher if you have experienced whiplash before or had pre-existing neck pain before your whiplash injury, Ghazal says.
Potential complications of whiplash injury
Most people do not have any long-term symptoms from whiplash and recover completely, Ghazal says. Complications of whiplash injuries are rare, but can include:
- Chronic pain
- Depression as a result of chronic pain and a loss of the ability to resume normal activities, like exercise
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the cause of the injury or the injury itself
If your whiplash symptoms become worse or pain radiates down your arms with numbness, tingling, or weakness in your limbs, you should seek medical attention, Smith says. These can be signs of more serious complications, like a fracture or a spinal cord injury, that would require different treatment.
Whiplash is a neck injury caused by a sudden, forceful, motion that quickly jerks the neck back and forth. Causes of whiplash can include car accidents, physical assault, falls, or sports injuries.
Treatment options can include the use of over-the-counter pain relievers and gentle range of motion exercises. Some people may need physical therapy or prescription muscle relaxers.
Most people recover from whiplash within a few weeks, but some may develop chronic pain or reduced range of motion that persists for years. If you think you may have a whiplash injury consult with a doctor who can provide guidance for treatment.
- Elon Musk calls on all Twitter designers, engineers doing software to sit on his floor of HQ for 'dense and intense' work
- It’s not just Mercedes, even bank deposits are competing with equities
- A former Facebook exec says an employee at a 'large tech company' once complained to the CEO in an all-hands meeting about the quality of company toilet paper
- India will succeed in handling inflation better: Sitharaman
- India's GDP growth comes in at 6.3% in Q2: manufacturing, mining witness negative growth
- Dharmaj Crop Guard IPO subscribed by a whole 35.49 times on last day
- Sensex, Nifty50 rewrite all-time highs yet again – RIL, HDFC twins most active, ICICI Bank touches new 52-week high
- Bollywood films failing is a phase, our films will bounce back strongly: Kajol