Whiplash: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment


Whiplash is a neck injury triggered by a powerful back-and-forth movement of the neck. The injury is commonly instigated as a result of rear-end car accidents. Though it can be caused by other traumas as well such as slip and fall. This sudden force expanses and tears the tendons and muscles in your neck. Many people with whiplash get better within a few weeks or months by following the recommended treatment plan. On the other hand, some people get chronic neck pain with lasting complications. Here we have discussed everything you need to know about whiplash including the common symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options available both at clinic and home.

Symptoms of Whiplash

Unfortunately, if you have suffered from whiplash you will experience intense neck pain, stiffness, and tension blistering from the head and moves down the upper back and shoulders. Other common symptoms include tightness, muscle spasms, and headaches. The symptoms of whiplash range from moderate to severe. If the pain doesn’t get better even after weeks, you should consult a spinal specialist. Therapies and prescription medication will improve your symptoms.

Whiplash Diagnosis

Whiplash injury affects the soft tissue structures and bones. Therefore, imaging is important particularly if the injury is caused because of a high-velocity automobile accident. The initial evaluation is accompanied by a detailed physical examination. Based on the findings, you will be recommended for x-rays of the neck if required for further evaluation.

How Whiplash Is Treated

We highly recommend you to consult a doctor after the car accident. Typically, acute and sub-acute conditions last up to three months of the accident. The treatment involves non-opioid pain medications and physical therapy. If you are still experiencing the pain after three months, your condition will become chronic. A multidisciplinary pain management approach is followed to treat the condition. For mood disorders, you might be recommended for cognitive behavior therapy to provide you a realistic perspective on pain management and symptoms.

Medical Care for Whiplash

According to Chiro Atlanta, if you are experiencing the symptoms of whiplash whether minor or intense, make sure to seek medical care immediately. Here we have listed some of the treatment options available: 

Physical Therapy: A physical therapist will design a treatment program focused on improving your neck flexibility and strength. Also, it aims at relieving stress on the spine and minimizes pain. 

Pain Medication: In case the over-the-counter drugs fail to manage the pain, then prescription-strength medications makes another important recommendation. These include opioids and muscle relaxants prescribed by the physician.

Psychotherapy: Unfortunately, if you have developed a psychological condition after the whiplash injury such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, professional mental health counseling is important to help you go through the condition in a better way.

Manual Manipulation: A chiropractor typically uses manual adjustments or manipulations to the spine that can reduce pain and increase the required range of motion.

Massage Therapy: This treatment option is frequently combined with others such as manual manipulation and physical therapy. A massage can comfort muscle spasms and tension while improving the blood flow. 

Self-Care Tips to Treat Whiplash Injury

In addition to medical care, there are few things you can do on your own to improve your whiplash condition and get better. It is advised to consult a physical therapist regarding a home program. This will generally include the exercises to improve your condition. You will get to know how to move safely and stick to the recommended exercise program. These exercises are focused on building neck muscle strength and support your head for proper alignment.

At the same time, try to eliminate the bad posture habits. Your body makes certain responses due to reduced physical capacity and pain. While moving and positional shifts can minimize pain in the short-term, though remember it can further worsen the situation eventually leading to functional restriction and intense pain. If this is the situation, you must consult a physical therapist. At work, we suggest you change positions and move as much as possible. You may want to walk over to a colleague’s cabin instead of calling them. This will give your body a break and relax muscles since they are being overused.

Chiropractic Treatment

Apart from spinal manipulation, soft tissue injuries are treated with a more specified approach in some conditions. These techniques are frequently referred to as manual therapy. By doing so, the injured muscles and ligaments can be restored over time and of course the range of movement. Chiropractors use therapeutic massage, trigger point therapy, manual resistance, stretching techniques, and instrument-assisted therapy to improve the condition of soft tissues. Instruments play an important role in the gentle stimulation of the soft tissue by exerting the required pressure on the affected area.

Additional therapies are also used in treating back and neck injuries as a result of whiplash. These commonly include interferential electrical stimulation and ultrasound therapy. Interferential electrical stimulation uses a safe and gentle electric current to soothe muscles and reduce the inflammation in the injured area. On the other hand, ultrasound therapy contributes to tension-related concerns and heal muscle spasms and pain. It helps in treating whiplash in a more natural way while improving blood circulation.

Wrapping Up

The occurrence of whiplash is an unfortunate condition. For many people, whiplash happens because of muscle strains and mild ligament sprains. In some cases, the symptoms of whiplash are prolonged and can last for months or years. The long-term projection of the condition significantly varies from one individual to another as well as the sternness of the symptoms. Considering the research and information on the mechanics of whiplash, physicians are looking forward to practical advice on what the affected individual should do and what should be avoided. Whiplash management is following a combination of different therapeutic approaches as discussed above. For any queries regarding the whiplash condition or injuries, feel free to write to us in the comment section below. We would be happy to help you!