Whiplash is one of the most common auto accident injuries. It can occur at speeds slower than 12 miles an hour. However, even though this injury happens often, that doesn't make it any less serious.
According to the Spine Research Institute of San Diego, whiplash affects more than 3 million Americans a year. Considering 35%-68% of low speed rear-end collisions reported risk of injury, this is not surprising.
If you've been in a recent car accident and experience either moderate or severe neck pain, you may have whiplash. Often, some people don't notice any pain or stiffness until even a few days after an accident.
Some additional symptoms of whiplash include:
- Shoulder pain
- Low back pain
- Numbness in your hands or arms
Depending on the severity of your injury, whiplash can affect your ability to sleep and impair your vision and concentration. And as the weeks following your accident go by, you may start to notice even more symptoms. It's a good idea to keep a detailed record so you can tell your doctor about everything you experience.
Most people recover from whiplash in just a couple weeks. However, those with more severe injuries can take months or even years to fully heal.
If you have whiplash, you have a slight chance of developing further complications, such as chronic pain. Though chronic pain can indicate ligament or tissue damage, it usually occurs because of psychological trauma.
Your state of mind greatly affects your physical health. If you maintain an upbeat and proactive attitude, your body will react accordingly. Conversely, negative thoughts and social withdrawal can lead to depression and chronic pain.
Returning to normal activities and staying connected with family and friends promote faster healing and recovery.
Directly following your accident (and after you've contacted your doctor), apply a cold compress to the injured area. This will prevent any swelling and decrease the amount of cramping and stiffness.
For the next 24-48 hours, you can alternate between cold and hot compresses to relieve the pain. Remember to inform your doctor of any new or worsening symptoms.
Additional treatments and therapy include:
- Mobilization massage
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
- Anti-inflammatory medication
As a rule of thumb, if a treatment is going to work, you will see its positive effects within a couple weeks. If after that time you haven't seen any improvements, you need to call your doctor again. He or she might prescribe painkillers and muscle relaxers. Or you might need an injection of a numbing medicine like lidocaine.
As pain permits, continue to stretch and message your neck to build up muscle strength. Refrain from drastically lowering your level of activity. Prolonged rest can weaken your muscle tissues-you'll need to move around to heal properly.
Prevent Further Injury
Prevent future whiplash injuries by following the tips outlined below.
- Purchase a safer vehicle- Choose a car with well-designed head restraints and high rear-end crash test ratings.
- Properly position your head restraint- A well-designed head restraint will do you no good if it's not positioned correctly. The top of your head should be parallel to the top of the head restraint, with the back of your head no more than 2-5 centimeters away from it.
- Buckle up- A snug seatbelt will help you remain in position during an accident.
- Don't tailgate- Leave sufficient space between you and the car in front of you. This will allow you more room to stop if the car ahead breaks suddenly.
However, if you or a loved one has already been hurt in an auto accident, contact a personal injury lawyer. You may be eligible for benefits and compensation.