Neck strain, commonly known as whiplash, is typically associated with car accidents. It’s caused by any impact that causes a person’s head to jerk backward or forward, causing neck strain or a whiplash injury. The sudden movement can tear the tendons and muscle in a person’s neck, inflicting severe pain. Although it’s mostly associated with car accidents, many professional and amateur athletes experience neck strains, especially those who frequently participate in contact sports like American football.
Many people often confuse it with neck sprains, and although they’re drastically different, the causes, symptoms, and treatment of both conditions are the same. And you can treat both injuries by consulting with the best chiropractor.
Here are the symptoms, treatments, and preventive measures you can take to help you better understand whiplash injury and prevent it from getting worse.
Symptoms of Whiplash
When diagnosing whiplash, a doctor will typically give you a thorough examination and require x-rays, Computed Tomography (CT) scans, and other tests. But if you think you have a neck strain, the pain can be hard to ignore. Its symptoms may include:
- Severe pain, a tight feeling in the neck, and a decreased range of motion.
- Tenderness on the neck.
- Sharp pain when rocking your head from any direction.
- Headaches at the base of your skull, radiating towards the forehead.
- Stiffness or pain when moving your head to look over on each shoulder.
The pain you may experience when getting a neck strain or whiplash is often immediate, but in other cases, it can take up to several hours or days before you feel any of its symptoms. Depending on the severity of the condition, whiplash can sometimes cause concussions too, and when you experience this, it’s best to contact a physician right away.
Other symptoms requiring immediate emergency medical care include gradually worsening or persisting headaches, weakness, a confused state, fatigued, dizzy, having trouble taking, or unconscious.
Although neck strains can be painful, it can heal by itself over time. But you can practice these following measures to help speed up the recovery:
- Put ice on your neck for at least 15 minutes every 3 to 4 hours for the next 2 to 3 days. Doing this reduces pain and swelling.
- The fastest way to alleviate pain associated with the conditions involves taking pain killers or other drugs. Your physician will typically suggest taking standard medications like Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) and Acetaminophen (Tylenol).
- You can also consult with professional services such as chiropractic care and massages, or ultrasounds.
The recovery time for neck strains will depend on how severe the condition is, but most cases resolve within a few days. However, others can take several weeks or even longer to completely heal.
Since whiplash injuries are commonly associated with accidents, there’s not much you can do to prevent it from happening, but there are several things you can do to improve your odds. These include:
- Do gentle strengthening exercises with your neck to keep it healthy and limber. It’s best to do this preventive measure daily, especially if you experienced a whiplash injury before.
- If you work an office job that requires you to sit in the same position during your shift, it’s best to take regular short breaks to exercise your neck.
Although whiplash can be unpredictable, exercising your neck and practicing safety measures when driving or playing sports can bring you a long way. Be aware of the symptoms of the condition and get immediate help to ensure your health and safety.