Whiplash can be caused by a number of incidents. Most commonly, it’s the result of a car accident. The impact when a car is rear-ended causes a specific motion- a back and forth “whipping” effect, which can put strain on the muscles, tendons, and structures of the neck. Whiplash, or neck strain, can be caused by several types of impact. Patients who engage in physically active contact sports may be at risk for whiplash.
Prevention is, of course, the best cure for any injury. When riding in a car, be sure that your seatbelt is correctly positioned. The lap belt should rest comfortably across the hips- not high on the stomach or below the waist. The shoulder belt should cross the sternum and collar bone without pressing against the neck. Check your headrest as well, to be sure it’s not set too low to give you proper protection in case of an accident. Keep your seat in an upright position while riding or driving. A reclined seat does not provide adequate protection in an accident.
After an Accident
Although you may walk away from an accident without excessive pain, it’s no guarantee that you haven’t sustained injuries. Whiplash symptoms can show up in the hours and even days following an accident or other trauma. The safest course of action is to seek a medical evaluation immediately following an accident or impact, to rule out any fractures or other injuries.
While we’ve all seen the television and movie portrayals of whiplash victims wearing a large, immobilizing collar, appropriate exercise and physical therapy are far more effective treatments than a cervical collar. If pain persists, it may be necessary for your doctor to check for herniated discs or other injuries that might not be immediately apparent. A short course of spinal manipulation and physical therapy is usually enough to help speed recovery. In more severe cases, trigger point injections and other therapies can be used to reduce pain and support the healing process.
If you’ve been in an accident or suspect you may be suffering from whiplash, call Alpha Care for a complete evaluation. The sooner treatment begins, the sooner you can get on with your life.