Whiplash and Neck Strain

Are you suffering from neck pain or stiffness? Have you recently incurred a sudden jerking or other sudden movement or injury to your head or neck? If this sounds familiar, you could be suffering from whiplash, also known as neck strain or neck sprain. There are many reasons for this uncomfortable discomfort, and it usually goes away on its own within a few weeks. 

Additionally, you can assist with the healing by trying some gentle yet effective and guided stretching. However, there are some rare cases where whiplash symptoms hang around longer than usual. The Pain Center San Diego has put together some information to help you understand whiplash and what you need to look for if you think you may be affected.

What Causes Whiplash?

Whiplash is a common neck injury that occurs suddenly and precipitously when your neck jerks either forward to backward or backward to forward. When your whiplash is the result of an auto accident or other type of injury, the muscle and soft tissue in your neck can incur damage that can cause minor or severe symptoms, depending on how badly and which tissues were injured.

Is Whiplash the Same As A Concussion?

No, whiplash is not the same as a concussion, although there are similarities in how both injuries happen — with an abrupt, vigorous jolt. Surprisingly, the two injuries significantly differ as whiplash is an injury to your neck that causes damage to your soft tissues like your ligaments and muscles. At the same time, a concussion is an injury involving the brain.

How Does Whiplash Feel?

Following a whiplash injury, you may experience a dull, achy pain in your neck. Or it may even be hard to move your head from side to side. Mainly, how you feel will depend significantly on your particular type of injury and which, if any, tissues are affected, along with how severe your injury is.

What Are the Symptoms of Whiplash?

When you have whiplash, symptoms can significantly differ from case to case. Some people suffer symptoms soon after, or you may not feel any symptoms for days. Whiplash symptoms, also referred to as whiplash-associated disorders (or WAD), may include:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle spasms
  • Anxiety or memory loss
  • Fatigue or excess tiredness
  • Having a stiff neck that's tough to turn
  • Neck pain, shoulder pain 
  • Back pain

When Should I Seek Help for Whiplash?

You should look up The Pain Center San Diego if pain or other symptoms of whiplash:

  • Disrupts your sleep
  • Impacts your life negatively
  • It doesn't improve after two weeks
  • It seems to have improved, then symptoms worsen
  • You have lost interest in your most favorite activities

Does Whiplash Cause Neurological Difficulties?

Sometimes, an injury that causes whiplash may impact how your brain operates. Did you know that pain can alter how your brain processes information and emotions? You can experience:

  • Insomnia
  • Loss of memory 
  • Issues staying focused
  • Unexplained and sudden mood changes

How Is Whiplash Identified?

Whiplash is usually diagnosed via examination and a host of questions about your injury. CT scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be performed to show specifics of soft tissue damage, like nerves or discs, for instance. But it may not always be necessary. 

How Is Whiplash Generally Treated?

You may be able to start gentle neck movements the following day, but follow your doctor's instructions to prevent further injury to your neck. Other whiplash treatments include:

  • Lidocaine and Steroid injections
  • Soft neck brace or other supported devices
  • OTC or prescribed pain medication to reduce pain and swelling
  • Apply ice or heat to the injury within the first 24 hours after the injury.
  • Chiropractic techniques, massage, or other types of alternative therapies
  • Physical therapy, inclusive of neck stretches and exercises to strengthen your sore muscles safely

Are There Any Complications With Whiplash?

Generally, recovery should take a few weeks and will vary from person to person. Depending on your age, previous neck or back injuries, and how severe the damage is, you may experience long-term issues. 

How Can You Prevent Whiplash?

Since whiplash occurs typically abruptly and unexpectedly, unfortunately, it's impossible to prevent or predict it. However, wearing your seatbelt while in a vehicle can protect against more severe injuries from an auto accident.

See The Best Pain Specialist in San Diego, California

If you've incurred an injury to your neck, and it's causing you discomfort, or if you live with daily chronic pain and you are ready for real relief, contact our pain specialist to schedule your appointment. Dr. Thompson and the team at The Pain Center San Diego look forward to helping you through your journey of living and enjoying a pain-free future.









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