Did you know that approximately 3 million Americans sustain whiplash injuries annually, and 1.5 million Americans experience chronic pain from whiplash? Car accidents, contact sports, and falls are all common causes of whiplash.
If you’re suffering from a whiplash injury, you’re likely wondering how to treat whiplash and what healthcare providers you should see. Learning more about whiplash and the treatments available will help guide you toward recovery.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about whiplash and the available treatments so you can return to your activities.
Overview of Whiplash
Whiplash is an injury that occurs when a sudden movement or force causes your head to move backward and forward suddenly. Whiplash causes neck strain and spine sprain. It can damage your bones, muscles, and ligaments and affect your nerves.
Essentially, the soft tissues in your neck extend past their normal range of motion. Symptoms often don’t appear for a while after the injury and can become chronic.
What Causes Whiplash?
Most often, whiplash is the result of a car crash, but it can occur from other things like:
- Cycling collisions
- Physical abuse
- A blow to the head with a heavy object
- Contact sports like football
- Horseback riding
How Long Does Whiplash Last?
Most people with whiplash feel better within two weeks and don’t experience lasting effects from their injury. On the other hand, some people develop chronic whiplash. With chronic whiplash, you can continue to have pain for months to years after the initial injury.
How people experience whiplash symptoms widely varies. Some people have mild symptoms that resolve quickly. On the other hand, some people have painful symptoms that take a month or longer to resolve.
Much of this depends on the nature of your injury and your overall health. If you have chronic conditions like arthritis or a previous back injury, you may take longer to recover from whiplash.
Symptoms of whiplash typically appear within 24 hours of the initial incident. Sometimes, you may have symptoms that don’t develop until a few days after the injury. Common signs and symptoms of whiplash include:
- Neck pain
- Neck stiffness
- Blurry vision
- Constant fatigue
- Muscle spasms
- Swelling or bruising
Some people experience difficulty sleeping and have problems with memory or concentration. Severe whiplash can result in serious symptoms like numbness, burning, and tingling in your shoulders and arms.
How to Treat Whiplash
No matter how minor your whiplash injury is, it’s best to see your doctor to ensure that you don’t have any injuries you’re unaware of.
For minor injuries, you can try whiplash injury self-care at home. First, you can take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen. You should also alternate applying hot and cold compresses throughout the day.
Your doctor might also recommend other whiplash injury treatments like physical therapy or chiropractic care if you’re experiencing ongoing symptoms.
Chiropractic treatment is an effective way to treat whiplash injuries and can offer you long-term pain relief. Your chiropractor will begin with an initial assessment. They’ll ask you questions about the symptoms you’re experiencing and how the accident occurred.
Your chiropractor will then do a physical assessment and take an x-ray if you haven’t had one already. They may also recommend other imaging tests like a CT scan or MRI if they suspect you have more significant injuries.
Many chiropractors will also work with other specialists when you’ve been in a car accident. Coordinating care with physical therapists and doctors like pain management specialists will help your chiropractor form a comprehensive injury treatment plan.
Next, you’ll usually receive a combination of treatments that include:
Spinal Adjustments and Spinal Decompression
A spinal or chiropractic adjustment is one of the most common treatments for neck and back pain. Spinal adjustments are also helpful for treating shoulder pain.
During a spinal adjustment, your chiropractor will use their hands or an instrument to apply a sudden force in a controlled way. This force is applied to a spinal joint, which brings it back into alignment.
Spinal decompression is also helpful for treating neck pain. Spinal decompression is a noninvasive procedure that involves gently stretching the spine to take the pressure off the discs.
Since a whiplash injury affects your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, your chiropractor will usually recommend massage therapy.
Whiplash injuries leave your muscles sore, and massage therapy can offer natural pain relief. This is because massage relaxes your muscles and tendons. It also stimulates nerve fibers and reduces inflammation.
Trigger point therapy can also help release painful, tense knots in your muscles due to whiplash injury. Trigger point therapy involves sustained pressure on the affected area.
Finally, massage therapy stimulates blood flow, speeding up the healing process.
Stretches and Exercises
Your chiropractor will also include specific exercises in your whiplash treatment plan. Physical rehabilitation will reduce neck pain and also improve your strength and flexibility.
For example, side-to-side head rotation is a common exercise for whiplash injuries. You’ll first lie on your back and turn your chin towards your right shoulder. You can also use your hand to pull your head farther to stretch it more.
You’ll need to hold this for 20 seconds and repeat the process turning towards your left shoulder.
You’ll also learn exercises to do at home each day. This will help you recover faster, and you’ll be less likely to experience problems with chronic pain.
Finally, making lifestyle changes is a crucial part of treating whiplash injuries. Stress, a poor diet, and inactivity can increase your pain and stiffness. Foods high in trans fats and sugar also increase inflammation.
Your chiropractor will help you make lifestyle changes like:
- Improving your diet
- Helping you form a daily exercise routine
- Recommending stress relief techniques like meditation or yoga
These lifestyle changes will not only help you recover faster but also help you develop healthy long-term habits.
See a Chiropractor for Whiplash Treatment
Now that you understand more about how to treat whiplash, you’ll be able to find the best treatment for your situation.
If you’re looking for an experienced chiropractor to treat your whiplash injuries, you won’t have to look any further than Anthem Chiropractic. We offer spinal adjustments, spinal decompression, and massage therapy treatments for back, neck, and shoulder pain.
We also form custom treatment plans to help you to recover from a car accident or a personal injury. We’ll continue to care for your wellness by helping you with lifestyle changes and nutritional counseling.
Make sure to contact us today to schedule an appointment!