Every year, millions of people suffer neck injuries, including whiplash, a relatively common injury most often associated with car accidents, falls, and sports injuries. In fact, every year in the United States, about 841,000 people seek hospital treatment for whiplash injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents.
Whiplash may be relatively common, but it can still be very serious, especially if medical care is delayed. As a leading physician in Pembroke Pines, Florida, David Berkower, DO, helps patients at Berkower Pain & Spine Rehabilitation find effective ways to relieve their whiplash symptoms. If you have whiplash, here’s what he wants you to know.
How whiplash happens
Whiplash is caused by a rapid back-and-forth movement of your head that puts extreme strain on your neck. The back-and-forth movement is similar to the cracking of a whip, which is how this particular injury got its name.
When your head snaps back and forth, it tugs on your neck muscles, tendons, and ligaments, potentially damaging the nerves, neck joints, and other components of your neck. In addition to these immediate injuries, whiplash tends to cause inflammation and swelling that can press on nerves and cause additional pain and stiffness in your neck.
Most people think whiplash only happens as a result of a major impact, but that’s not true. Even a minor car accident or other injury involving your neck can cause whiplash, along with problems with your cervical (neck) spine and nerves.
Symptoms of whiplash
One of the problems with whiplash is that it doesn’t always cause symptoms right away. Depending on the type of injury you have, you may not have symptoms until a few days after the injury occurs.
When symptoms do appear, they usually include:
- Neck pain
- Decreased range of movement in the neck
- Tenderness in the neck or shoulders
- Electricity-like bursts of pain down your arms
- Numbness in your arms or hands
Some people with whiplash have problems with their vision or hearing, sleep disturbances, or problems with concentration or memory.
Whiplash can certainly be uncomfortable, but fortunately, most cases of whiplash can be treated conservatively. Depending on your symptoms and the extent of your injuries, your treatment plan might include:
- Ice and heat application
- Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines
- Prescription medicines
- Physical therapy
- At-home exercises and gentle stretching
- Spinal adjustment
- Steroid injections to relieve inflammation
Severe whiplash, including whiplash that involves dislocations or fractures, may require more aggressive treatment, such as surgery.
Even mild symptoms of whiplash need prompt medical care. That’s because your neck is extremely flexible, and when your neck is injured — even slightly — it can have an effect on the nerves traveling from your brain all the way down your spine. Without prompt care, you could wind up permanently damaging those nerves.
Another bonus of getting prompt care is you can heal faster. In fact, with proper medical care, most people with mild to moderate whiplash find their symptoms go away within a few weeks to a few months.
Learn more about whiplash treatment
If you think you’ve sustained a whiplash injury, don’t wait to get examined. Dr. Berkower can give you a thorough evaluation, and if you have an injury, he can provide a treatment plan to help you get well.
To learn more, call 954-430-9972 or book an appointment online with Berkower Pain & Spine Rehabilitation today.