Experiencing neck pain from whiplash can severely impact your quality of life. The effects can be long-lasting, even well after the accident. Most causes of whiplash result from car accidents, particularly if you're rear-ended. It results from a rapid jolting back and forth of the neck. You may notice pain immediately following the accident, or it may appear days later.
Other common causes of whiplash include sports injuries and any trauma to the body that causes this sudden neck movement. Managing neck pain from whiplash is an essential part of the healing process. While, sometimes, the condition heals on its own, it's always best to seek medical and chiropractic treatment as soon as possible, enabling you to heal more quickly.
At ChiroCare of Florida, we're experts at treating neck pain from whiplash. It's one of the most common injuries we see. Seeking care immediately, and keeping medical documentation, can improve your chances of winning any legal battles that may come up should your injury case go to court. As licensed chiropractors, we can order imaging, evaluate your condition, monitor your progress, and provide testimony in court.
However, we know you don't want to live in pain between appointments and want to recover quickly. We're here to advise on treating chronic pain that may result from the injury and explain what whiplash feels like and its associated symptoms. Additionally, we'll review how long you can expect the pain to last and answer questions like, "Will my whiplash heal on its own?"
Keep reading to learn more about whiplash injury treatment.
How Do You Treat Chronic Neck Pain from Whiplash?
Your chiropractor assesses your injury, evaluating your range of motion, pain level, tenderness or swelling in the area, how it may affect other parts of the upper back, and your general reflexes. They'll create a custom treatment plan to take place over time, adjusting as you progress and your pain lessens. But there are things you can do between visits to treat chronic pain.
Rest For Several Days
First, the most important this is to rest and avoid aggravating the vertebrae in your neck and the discs between them. You should spend a few days relaxing comfortably at home following the accident before returning to daily activities.
Hot and Cold Therapy
Applying heat or cold to the area can also help–your chiropractor will tell you which is best and when. You can use heating pads, microwaveable cushions, ice packs, or bags of ice. Some people use the old-school method of frozen bags of vegetables. It's important to ask your chiropractor how long and often to use hot and cold applications since overdoing it can be detrimental.
Short-Term Use of Medication
The use of short-term medication, whether over-the-counter or prescription, may be recommended. A doctor may prescribe painkillers or muscle relaxants in the early days following your accident. They may also recommend the use of acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Check with your primary care physician before adding any new medications to your regimen.
Your chiropractor may recommend physical therapy if you're experiencing chronic pain from whiplash. This will be a series of appointments where you work with a licensed professional to complete exercises that will strengthen your muscles, improve your range of motion and mobility, and reduce pain over time.
Another way to treat chronic pain from whiplash is to schedule regular appointments with your chiropractor. This way, they can order imaging like X-rays or MRIs to assess the current point of neck damage and address it appropriately. Your chiropractor will continue to monitor your progress and adjust your plan as necessary throughout your treatment.
Exercise and Stretching
Once the worst of your pain has passed and you've moved on to managing any lingering chronic pain, you can start exercising and stretching with your doctor's approval. Doing this can help your muscles retain mobility, adequately supporting your cervical spine, and help keep your vertebrae better aligned.
Recommended exercises may include gentle stretches such as slowly rotating your neck in each direction, rolling your shoulders, chin tucks, ear-to-neck stretches, and more.
Many people also find that alternative therapies like acupuncture treatments help relieve chronic whiplash pain. Others enjoy massage therapy and electrical nerve stimulation, use anti-inflammatory diets, or take herbal supplements. Before introducing any herbal supplements to your routine, please consult your doctor.
What Does Whiplash Feel Like In the Neck?
If you've just suffered an accident, you may not know if you have whiplash or minor aches and pains from the impact. There are certain signs to be mindful of that may signify you have whiplash.
With whiplash, you'll likely feel pain. However, the types of pain may differ. It can be constant, come and go, or worsen when you move your head, neck, or shoulders in specific ways. Additionally, you'll likely experience tenderness and possible swelling in the area. Your upper back may hurt too. Whiplash pain can spread to your shoulders or up to the base of your skull.
Your neck may feel tense, stiff, and it will likely be challenging to move your neck and head without experiencing pain. Muscle knots and spasms may also present.
How Long Does Neck Pain Last from Whiplash?
After seeking immediate treatment for an injury, you'll likely want to know how long it will take to heal and when the pain will disappear. The answer is different for everyone. Generally, it takes patients two to three months before the pain fully resolves. Others find themselves in physical therapy for longer, and some may choose to continue seeing a chiropractor indefinitely to keep their neck and spine aligned properly.
Some people experience chronic neck pain from whiplash, though this is rare. If your pain doesn't resolve within three months, immediately speak with your doctor or chiropractor. There are rare circumstances where surgery may be required.
Can Whiplash Heal On Its Own?
For some people, whiplash can heal on its own, though the pain may last longer than if you undergo professional treatment. As long as there are no breaks, fractures, disc injuries, etc., your pain will likely dissipate over time. However, it's best not to place all your eggs in this basket.
Without the proper treatment, whiplash injuries can result in painful spine subluxations that require chiropractic adjustments. Leaving whiplash untreated can affect your entire spine and many of your muscles. This can worsen posture, cause secondary pain in many parts of the body, and result in chronic structural problems that hinder full recovery.
Schedule an Appointment Today
If you're experiencing neck pain from whiplash, schedule an appointment with ChiroCare of Florida today. With ten convenient locations throughout South Florida, we're the experts many residents turn to. Our licensed chiropractors have more than 100 years of combined experience, and we have providers specializing in whiplash injuries.
We work with many insurance companies, including Medicare, and will help verify your benefits before treatment and inform you of the expected out-of-pocket cost of treatment.
Don't try to work through whiplash pain on your own. Contact us today to schedule an appointment so we can provide a professional evaluation and an individualized treatment plan. You don't have to live in chronic pain—call (877) 388-2165 to schedule an appointment.