“Are you all right?” This is the first question that people ask each other when they have been involved in an accident. You look for bumps, bruises, cuts, and scrapes; you pay attention to pain from broken bones or blood from wounds. But some injuries may not present until later. Whiplash is one of these. What should you do if you suffer from this common injury – and what is the best whiplash treatment at home?
What Is Whiplash?
When you are involved in a car accident, there is tremendous force at play. Your head and neck often jerk forward and back rapidly in response to this force. The soft tissues of the neck extend beyond their normal range, and the tendons and ligaments stretch and tear.
In the immediate aftermath of an accident, you may not feel anything amiss. This is especially true when adrenaline is still coursing through your body. Typically, whiplash symptoms present themselves within 24 hours or even a few days as the injured areas begin to swell.
- Pain and stiffness in the neck.
- Headaches, particularly at the base of your skull
- Blurred vision
- Pain in the shoulders and/or between the shoulder blades
- Pain in the lower back
- Pain and/or numbness in the arm and/or hand
- Difficulty concentrating
- Ringing in the ears
First Stop: The ER or Your Physician
If you experience these symptoms after a car accident, see a medical professional immediately. Unfortunately, many people do not seek help for this injury, but this can be a mistake. The same force that results in whiplash can cause concussion, a condition that needs to be monitored by your doctor.
Even if you do not have a concussion, whiplash affects soft tissues. Without the right diagnosis, medical intervention, and whiplash treatment at home, you can aggravate these muscles, tendons, and ligaments, making the injury that much worse.
Your doctor will ask you about the injury, how it happened, where the pain is, and how it feels (e.g., shooting, stabbing, dull). They will also examine your neck to check your range of motion and pinpoint tender areas.
Make sure to mention if you experience any of the following:
- Severe neck pain
- Numbness, tingling, or pain in the shoulders, arms, and/or legs
- Weakness in arm and/or leg
- Issues with bowels or bladder
- Recurrent pain and/or stiffness in the neck
You may have to have x-rays to rule out other conditions (e.g., arthritis) or injury, and/or a CT scan or MRI to look for inflammation in the soft tissue, nerves, or spinal cord.
In more severe cases of whiplash, your doctor may prescribe pain medication and/or muscle relaxers. If your case is mild to moderate, over-the-counter pain options, such as ibuprofen (e.g., Advil) or naproxen (e.g., Aleve), are usually sufficient. Your doctor will also provide you with some steps you can take at home.
Whiplash Treatment at Home
Be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations carefully. During the first 24 to 72 hours, the suggestion is usually to ice the area to reduce swelling and pain. Every three to four hours, apply an ice pack for about 15 minutes.
After the first two to three days of icing, apply heat. Your doctor will also likely suggest you engage in gentle movement. In the past, whiplash treatment at home involved using a cervical collar to immobilize the neck; this is now believed to cause more damage by weakening the muscles. Keep them loose and active, but do not strain them. Ask your doctor for specific exercises to stretch and relieve these muscles.
Simple steps like practicing good posture and relaxation techniques also help relieve the strain on these traumatized muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The benefits of strengthening your neck muscles are two-fold: you’ll heal more quickly from whiplash, and you can help prevent it in the future.
If your pain is more severe, your doctor may refer you beyond whiplash treatment at home to a physical therapist, massage therapist, or for ultrasound.
When Will You Feel Better?
That depends on the severity of your whiplash, as well as your body’s healing process. In some people, it resolves itself within days. For others, it can be weeks. But as you’ll see in the next section, pain can linger much longer.
When to Call a Car Accident Lawyer
A few whiplash statistics to consider:
- Individuals with whiplash lose approximately eight weeks of work
- 75 percent of people with whiplash experience symptoms for six months or longer
- About 60 percent of people with whiplash need long-term medical intervention
- Many people with whiplash experience chronic pain
Seeking medical attention is important, not just for your physical health but for your financial health. This is an important step if you decide to pursue legal action.
Whiplash can result in lost wages and recurrent or chronic pain; this can be a significant drain on your resources. Contact a car accident lawyer for a free consultation. They will assess your case and determine the most appropriate course of action. When you are injured and entitled to compensation, your attorney will fight on your behalf. Facing insurance companies on your own is a pain in the neck – and you don’t need another one.
Contact the law firm of LaBovick, LaBovick & Diaz; our team has decades of experience in car accident cases and understands the impact whiplash can have on your life.