Most people only associate whiplash with car accidents, but in reality, you can get whiplash from contact sports, rollercoasters, and even whipping your hair back and forth too abruptly at a concert.
What Is Whiplash?
So how does a whiplash injury happen? Whiplash is caused by a quick and sudden hyper-extension (backward) and then hyper-flexion (forward) movement of the neck. This type of abrupt movement causes the soft tissues (muscles, tendons and ligaments) in your neck to be stretched past their normal limits and therefore, causing injury to those tissues – known as a Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD).
Whiplash can be classified into a grading system:
WAD I: Neck pain with stiffness or tenderness only. No physical signs.
WAD II: Neck pain and musculoskeletal signs such as a decrease in range of motion.
WAD III: Neck pain and neurological signs. Such things could include associated sensory deficits (numbness or tingling), weakness, decreased or absent deep tendon reflexes.
WAD IV: Neck pain and fracture or dislocation of the vertebrae of the neck.
The most common grade of a whiplash injury is a WAD II.
Common Whiplash Symptoms And Signs
It can be difficult to tell which grade of WAD you may have. You might even question whether you have whiplash or something else! Dizziness, headaches, jaw pain, and vertigo are some signs that you are experiencing whiplash.
How Long Does Whiplash Last?
It is difficult to provide an exact duration of how long whiplash symptoms will last, as it varies greatly from person to person. Typically, people recover within 6 months, however, some may have prolonged symptoms and it may take years to fully recover. But don’t let stop you from carrying on with your daily activities like:
Taking the perfect selfie angle
Afternoon meet-up with a friend
The length of healing time depends on a variety of factors such as, severity of the injury, how soon you initiate treatment, compliance to treatment, any prior whiplash injuries, any presentation of neurological deficits, any associated fractures or dislocations and any pre-existing health conditions that may delay full recovery.
How Do You Treat A Whiplash Injury?
The initial treatment option for a whiplash injury is to rest and apply ice or heat to the neck and surrounding area using the 10-10-10 protocol. Not sure what the 10-10-10 protocol is? We got you!
- Apply ice/heat to the area for 10 minutes
- Remove ice/heat for 10 minutes
- Reapply for another 10 minutes
Manual therapy and exercises provided by a chiropractor, physiotherapist or registered massage therapist will help to restore the proper range of motion in your joints, ease muscle spasms and decrease pain. This will enable functional restoration and help you return to your normal daily activities sooner.
Delayed onset of treatment may lead to a poorer prognosis and hinder the total recovery time. In other words, the sooner you begin treatment, the better!