The structure of your neck is made from seven bones that are stacked on top of each other with a shock-absorbing disc between each level. Your neck is relatively flexible, so it relies on the muscles and ligaments to support itself when under pressure or tension. If these tissues stretch too far beyond their capacity, you can suffer "whiplash."
Causes of Whiplash
The leading cause of whiplash is car accidents.
If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident that results in a car collision, then there is a decent chance your neck will suffer whiplash. In fact up to 83% of people involved experience some form of injury as they make contact with the headrest or steering wheel first.
The extent and severity can vary depending on several factors including whether it was from behind, if speed at impact was faster than 30mph (in which case any amount above 10 mph increases probability), age/health status etc.
When you are struck by a larger vehicle, your risk of injury goes up because bumpers don't do much to protect the occupants. Most modern cars have shock-absorbing bumpers that minimize damage but not protection against injuries at low speeds. Rear end collisions can cause significant symptoms even when less than 5 mph.
Being hit by a bigger car makes it more likely for there to be an injury and this is due simply to the bumper on most newer vehicles.
While growing older, our tissues become less elastic and it becomes harder to recover from injury. Females are on average more likely than males to be injured in a whiplash incident.
People who have pre-existing arthritis or other health conditions such as obesity are also more at risk of developing injuries after an accident involving the neck area which may cause pain for extended periods of time without proper treatment.
Symptoms of whiplash initially include neck soreness that fades quickly. Ongoing complaints about whiplash often include dull pain in the back of the neck which becomes sharper when you move your head, and can spread to shoulders or between shoulder blades.
Tension headaches will regularly accompany neck injuries. Dizziness and TMJ problems are possible, but symptoms can also increase slowly over time. Rest may relieve your pain for a period of time, but it often leads to stiffness as well so be sure to inform us if you have any signs of an injury including: severe or "different" headache, loss of consciousness, confusion, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, change in vision, nausea, vomiting, numbness or tingling arms, face weakness, clumsiness etc.
Sprains & Strains
A sprain/strain injury replaces your normal and highly elastic tissue with less-elastic "scar tissue," which can lead to pain, arthritis or other issues. If you have neck problems after an accident, it's best for everyone involved if they get treatment as soon as possible.
Treatment for Whiplash
The pain you are experiencing after your injury is a normal reaction to the damage done. You should try going about "normal daily activities as your body allows," and understand that this will likely delay recovery if taken too far.
To relieve the pain of a stiff, sore neck associated with whiplash injury or other cervical sprain and strain, you should avoid wearing heavy headgear since it will increase your discomfort. Instead use ice for 10-15 minutes every hour to help ease some of the stiffness that comes from this injury.
If possible talk to your doctor about using heat because they may have their own specific recommendations on whether you can try heating up first before doing anything else like applying cold packs repeatedly throughout an episode.
You might also find success in sports creams.
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