Whiplash is one of those insidious problem areas where people often feel fine immediately after a car accident but a few days later experience a sharp rise in neck pain and headaches. The crazy thing about whiplash is even if the accident was fairly minor, the pain afterwards can still be extreme.
No only do you have to sort out the car but then you either have to dose up on painkillers or start weeks of treatment for your neck.
What is whiplash?
Whiplash occurs when the soft tissue in the spine is stretched and strained after the body is thrown in a sudden, forceful jerk. The injury most commonly occurs in car crashes involving sudden deceleration.
The most frequent complaints are headaches and stiffness in the neck and the back of the head. These symptoms appear within the first couple of days after the accident however some people report the onset of symptoms a week or so after the accident.
A doctor or hospital should be alerted if you experience memory loss or periods of unconsciousness after a collision.
What can I do to help?
In the first 24 hours after the injury, an ice bag applied to the neck will help to relieve inflammation and take normal painkillers eg paracetomol if necessary.
Do not use a collar or stay in bed for a week. You will take much longer to recover.
Within the first week see a physiotherapist to treat the soft tissues, reduce muscle spasm, reduce pain and start some gentle exercises to ensure your neck joints retain full mobility. People are often surprised how quickly their neck stiffens up after even a minor collision.
In most people who seek treatment, symptoms will clear up in 4-6 weeks. However depending on the severity of the accident, some people experience symptoms for months or even years.
Keep stretching and moving your neck and continue treatment until the symptoms are fully resolved. The physiotherapist will also give you specific exercises for your neck to ensure the neck muscles are strong and working properly.