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More than 2 million Americans suffer whiplash injuries each year. If you’re one of them, you might be wondering what to expect from your injury — and if it will heal on its own.

The fact is, whiplash injuries can be a lot more serious than they might seem at first. While you might not have many symptoms in the initial stages, you could still wind up having long-term symptoms that could affect your well-being and mobility.

David Berkower, DO, and the team at Berkower Pain & Spine Rehabilitation offer advanced care for patients with whiplash injuries, beginning with a careful evaluation of the injury and its current and potential symptoms. Here’s why seeking medical care following a whiplash injury is important for your health and well-being.

The mechanics of a whiplash injury

A whiplash injury happens when your head snaps forward and backward like the snap of a whip. A whiplash injury strains the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your neck and upper back beyond their normal limits. If the stretching is severe, the tissues can tear, either partially or completely.

Although falls and car accidents from rear-end collisions are common causes of whiplash injuries, it’s important to know that you don’t have to hit your head to have a whiplash injury. Any injury that causes a rapid back-and-forth motion in your head and neck can cause a whiplash injury.

There’s no way to determine the extent of whiplash damage without a doctor’s exam, However, there are a few symptoms that are typically associated with whiplash injuries:

  • Neck pain
  • Stiffness or decreased range of neck movement
  • Tingling or numbness in your neck or shoulders
  • Pain that worsens when moving your neck
  • Tenderness in your neck or shoulder muscles
  • Persistent or recurrent headaches
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Dizziness
  • Pain that radiates into your back or arms

Whiplash injuries tend to be more common with aging, as ligaments, tendons, and muscles lose some of their natural flexibility. Even a low-speed car crash — as low as 5-10 miles per hour — can cause a whiplash injury.

Why you need a doctor’s care

In some cases, whiplash symptoms can begin soon after an injury, and in other cases, symptoms can take hours — even more than a day — to set in. This is because whiplash injuries typically cause significant inflammation that develops over time.

Even a mild whiplash can take a major toll on your activity and make it hard to concentrate or even get a good night’s sleep. Early treatment can target inflammation and help keep symptoms from becoming severe.

In more serious cases of whiplash, going without treatment could lead to lasting nerve problems, chronic pain, and loss of movement. Seeing Dr. Berkower in the early stages of whiplash can help you recover sooner and help prevent long-term problems.

Treating whiplash

Dr. Berkower will perform a hands-on examination of your neck, shoulders, and upper back. He will also order diagnostic imaging tests as needed. Depending on your needs, treatment may include:

  • Ice or heat therapy
  • Massage
  • Over-the-counter or prescription medicines
  • Spinal adjustments to alleviate nerve compression
  • Injections to relieve pain and inflammation
  • Physical therapy or gentle stretching

Your treatment plan will be customized for you and can be adjusted over time as your symptoms improve.

Dr. Berkower and his team provide patient-centered care for many types of neck and back pain, including whiplash. To learn how they can help you relieve your painful whiplash symptoms, book an appointment online or over the phone with Berkower Pain & Spine Rehabilitation today.

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