Guide to Whiplash and How to Cope
If you or a loved one recently got in a car accident or experienced an impact some other way, you may have symptoms of whiplash. A whiplash injury can make it challenging to carry out your everyday activities or get comfortable, whether sitting in your favorite chair or driving to the store. Fortunately, most people recover from whiplash in a few months. In the meantime, dealing with this condition can put a damper on your day and make a recovery feel like a distant dream.
We understand how challenging it can be to manage neck pain, and we’re here to help. This guide shares tips for coping with whiplash symptoms to help you feel better.
What Is Whiplash?
Whiplash is the commonly used term for an injury to your neck’s soft tissues. Your neck consists of muscles, tendons and ligaments, which connect the bones, or cervical vertebrae, in your neck’s spinal column. If you experience a sudden jolt that causes your head to “whip” forward or backward, your neck’s tendons, ligaments and muscles might tear or overstretch. The resulting injury produces a range of symptoms collectively known as whiplash. Whiplash can also effect the mid-back and low-back as well.
Car crashes are the most common cause of whiplash. Researchers estimate that U.S. hospitals see around 840,000 accident-related whiplash injuries annually. Whiplash can also result from playing contact sports, like football or boxing. Anything that causes your head to jerk forward or backward can cause whiplash. And it doesn’t take much. According to an article published in Frontiers in Neurology, most whiplash cases result from low-impact, low-speed collisions.
Whiplash can begin to cause symptoms a few hours after the incident, though some cases could take days to emerge. When symptoms start to surface, you may experience any of the following in your neck:
- Limited range of motion
You might also experience:
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Cervicogenic Headaches (Coming from the neck)
- Back pain
- Shoulder pain
Neck injuries can also affect your mental health, as physical pain can be stressful and hard to handle emotionally. You or your loved one might also experience the following symptoms resulting from whiplash:
- Memory loss
- Scanning for words
- Trouble concentrating
- Sensitivity to light
7 Tips for Coping With Whiplash
Coping with whiplash isn’t easy, but know it’s likely temporary. For most people, it takes about three months to recover. How long symptoms last varies depending on age, medical conditions and injury severity. For example, someone with minor whiplash could recover in a few days, while someone with a more severe case may need months to recuperate.
If you’re concerned about whiplash symptoms or experiencing pain that disrupts your life or doesn’t go away in a few days, get checked by a medical professional as soon as possible.
Until you fully heal, use the following whiplash tips to help you cope.
1. Visit an Upper Cervical Chiropractor
Upper Cervical Chiropractors perform spinal adjustments to improve patients’ postures, relieve muscle tension and neck pain. If you’re experiencing whiplash, you might benefit from upper cervical chiropractic care. This form of chiropractic care focuses on correcting spinal subluxation in the upper neck — a misalignment of the spine’s 1st or 2nd vertebrae that can result from whiplash.
At Upper Cervical Chiropractic of Monmouth, LLC, we use Quantum Spinal Mechanics 3 method (QSM3) to perform specific spinal adjustments. QSM3 is a progressive chiropractic procedure that uses calculations and gentle contact to the top of the spine, allowing the doctor to perform precise spinal adjustments without popping, twisting or cracking. The QSM3 is method is especially useful for the whiplash patient since the care does not plance any additional strain on their already sensitive spine.
2. Apply Ice
Immediately after the injury, applying ice can help reduce inflammation and pain. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends using an ice pack for about 15 minutes several times daily for the first dah days. Once you’ve addressed the inflammation in the forst 24 hours, you can help soothe sore muscles by applying moist heat for up to 20 minutes per session.
3. Treat Yourself to a Massage
After you have been evaluated by your doctor, ask if a gentle neck massage would be appropriate for you. A light massage can help relax muscles and relieve the mental stress that often comes with physical pain. Always ask the massage therapist to avoid “pulling” on your neck in any direction.You can practice this at home if you can’t treat yourself to a professional massage. To give yourself a neck massage, gently roll your fingers in a circular motion over the areas that hurt.
4. Stay Active
Though resting for a day after the injury is wise, keeping your neck still for too long can cause muscle stiffness and weakness. Instead, aim to stay active by adopting new ways of doing things.
5. Change How You Do Things
As you heal, you must reduce the strain you put on your neck, which means you may need to change how you perform your everyday tasks. For instance, if you have a desk job, you may need to experiment with different monitor or chair heights to find a comfortable position.
Other ways to adapt include the following.
- Looking at your phone with a straight back: Don’t look down at your phone screen. Instead, raise your arms to keep your back and neck straight. The same applies to reading a book. Consider placing your book on a stand while you read to prevent bending your neck.
- Taking your time carrying groceries: Even though you may have to take extra trips, only carry a few grocery bags at once. Carrying too many heavy objects can cause strain. Also, keep your chin down when you lift anything, regardless of weight.
- Sleeping on your side or back: Do your best to sleep on your side or back until you feel better. Make sure your pillow offers enough support to keep your neck in a neutral position.
- Alternating chores: Avoid doing the most strenuous household tasks one after another. Instead, break things up and switch to easier tasks after performing a more difficult one. For instance, you might vacuum your living room, then change to something lighter, like dusting.
- A soft collar: A soft collar may provide some extra support if your neck muscles feel “tired or weak”. Soft collars can be worn for an hour and then taken off for an hour. Cycling on and off provides both the support the spine needs while also providing the muscles a change to resume their normal functions.
6. Try a Posture Exercise
Consider a posture exercise to take pressure off your neck and relieve pain. Try the following exercise a few times an hour as you recover:
Here are some gentle neck exercises that you can try as long as they are “pain-free” while moving. Never push a neck exercise into the painful range of motion.
*Always ask your doctor or physician prior to starting any new exercises.
7. Calm Your Mind
Getting hurt is stressful. Set aside a few minutes each day to relax and be in the present moment. Spend time doing low-impact activities you enjoy, like walking in nature or engaging in a hobby.
You might also try stress management techniques, like a simple breathing exercise. For example, you can do this easy breathing exercise standing, sitting or in any position that’s comfortable for you:
- Plant your feet on the ground, hip-width apart.
- Inhale as deeply as you comfortably can through your nose and count to five.
- Exhale gently through your mouth, counting to five.
- Repeat for five minutes.
Contact Upper Cervical Chiropractic of Monmouth, LLC, for Support
While whiplash pain usually heals on its own, it doesn’t mean it’s worth enduring. We’re ready to help you or your loved one find relief, whether you’re experiencing neck pain due to a car accident or another cause. Our five doctors have a combined 120 years of experience caring for patients with whiplash injuries.
At Upper Cervical Chiropractic of Monmouth, LLC, we’ll apply a gentle and effective chiropractic approach to help you recover and feel like yourself again. Call us today for more information or fill out our online form to schedule your free consultation.