We are all likely familiar with the term whiplash, often in the context of the aftermath of a car accident, but there are many other ways this condition can happen.

What is Whiplash? 

Essentially the term ‘whiplash’ is nothing more than neck strain. However, this neck strain can range in severity and is not always the result of a car accident – athletes often suffer whiplash as a result of collision on the field. A neck strain is identified by injured muscles or tendon. This differs from a sprain because a sprain occurs when the ligaments are actually torn.

You can basically suffer from whiplash any time your head is rapidly thrown back, resulting in hyper-extension. The cervical spine may also be injured as well depending on the source and severity of the impact.

How do I know if I Have Whiplash?

You might think that if your neck suffered this type of injury you would know right away. While this is true in some cases, other times it may be hours or even a day or two before the telltale pain begins. Some of the most common symptoms of whiplash include decreased range of motion, tightness, pain or knotted muscles in the neck. You may also experience headaches near the base of the skull with pain that moves to the forehead. The pain may increase with motion.

It’s important to also be aware that you could have a concussion as well. Often these two injuries can occur together. If you have hit your head, it’s best to not take the wait-and-see approach and to visit your doctor right away.

What if I do Have Whiplash?

The good news is that most people will recover from whiplash completely as long as it is treated correctly. Because I prefer a more natural approach to healing than to simply medicate, I think that using ice (and later heat) along with rest and realignment can help you heal properly. Each case of whiplash is different and while chirporactic care can improve some cases, there are others that simply require rest. I take each patient on a case my case basis and only apply my care if necessary.

As far as at-home care goes, in the two to three days after injury, you will want to use ice for about 20 to 30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours. After these  two to three days, you can switch to moist heat.

It’s important to take the time to allow your neck to heal.

Depending on the case, the neck pain should decrease within a few days. In more extreme cases it’s likely that the pain will last for weeks.

Whiplash Prevention

While there is no way to avoid having an accident, there are a few ways that you can help prevent neck injury. Be sure that your headrest in your car is adjusted correctly so that it goes to at least the top of your head. This way, if you are in a accident, your head will not snap back as far. Also, build up your neck muscles with strength exercises so that your neck will be both strong and limber. If you have a desk job, it’s important to get up stretch and move your neck around several times a day.