What is Whiplash?
Whiplash describes the pain that results following an injury to the muscles, tendons or ligaments in the neck. Discs, joints and nerves in the neck area may also be injured.
Whiplash, also called cervical acceleration/deceleration (CAD) syndrome, is caused by an abrupt jerking movement that forces the neck beyond its typical range of motion.
The most frequent cause of whiplash is motor vehicle accidents, but it can also be caused by falls, contact sports or a hit to the head. Riding amusement park rides such as a roller coaster, recurring stress injuries and persistent neck strain can cause a less severe case of whiplash.
Symptoms of whiplash include neck stiffness or pain; arm, back or shoulder pain; dizziness or blurred vision; and loss of function or numbness in the legs or arms. Confusion, difficulty with concentration or memory, difficulty sleeping, irritability and fatigue might occur in some cases.
Symptoms may appear immediately after the injury or develop several hours or days later.
The majority of individuals who suffer a whiplash injury recover within six weeks. The length of time it takes to recover varies because each situation is different.
As a general guideline, the amount of time that elapses between the injury and the onset of symptoms indicates the severity of the injury. The quicker symptoms appear, the more serious the injury is and the longer it may take to recover.
What can I do to help myself recover quickly?
The best thing you can do to help your recovery from whiplash is to stay active. When ligament damage occurs as a result of a whiplash injury, scar tissue begins to form. Excessive scar tissue restricts range of motion and can irritate the nerves in the neck or back. Inactivity also tightens muscles and can lead to further irritation, injury or muscle imbalance.
Performing the following exercises at least twice a day will maintain flexibility and help you gain muscle strength:
- Range of motion. Gently turn your head to the right, then to the left. Bring your chin to your chest, return to starting position, and then slowly look up at the ceiling. Lower your left ear toward your left shoulder, and then lower your right ear toward your right shoulder.
- Muscle control. Lie on your stomach propped up on your elbows. Gently tilt your chin up and down in a nodding motion. Turn your head from side to side. Tilt your head downward, looking at your chest, and then return to starting position.
Studies show that individuals who return to work have a better recovery than those who are off for an extended time. Maintaining correct workplace ergonomics helps you avoid further neck strain and enhances your recovery:
- Use a headset if you are on the phone for extended periods.
- Adjust your chair height so that your feet are supported by the floor.
- Adjust your keyboard height so that your elbows are bent between 90 and 120 degrees; keep elbows close to your body.
- Maintain a level line of sight; do not tilt your head up or down when looking at a monitor or document.
Remember: you are your own best resource for returning to the lifestyle you love. Practicing proper posture, reducing stress on your neck muscles and staying active will play a major role in your speedy recovery.
Just make sure you always consult a physician before starting a new exercise routine.