A common injury that affects individuals following a car accident is whiplash. Whiplash is described as a neck injury caused by the rapid and forceful back-and-forth movement of the neck after a car accident leading to neck pain.
This injury is most common in rear-end car collisions, where soft tissue, such as ligaments, joints and muscles in the neck are extended beyond an individual’s typical range of motion. Usually, the injury doesn’t express itself immediately following an accident, but will hours or even days after.
While most people recover from whiplash within a few weeks, some cases of trauma require other means of treatment, such as pain medication and physical therapy. The type of treatment is heavily reliant on the severity of the injury, duration of the pain, and symptoms related to the injury.
Common symptoms associated with whiplash include:
- Neck pain stiffness, and tenderness
- An increase in pain with neck movement
- Loss of range of motion in the afflicted area
- Tingling and numbness in the arms
The most common cause of whiplash is rear-end car accident collisions. However, any event where the neck is violently flung back and forth can contribute to this type of injury. Situations outside of car accidents that can lead to whiplash include:
- Sports – High-speed collision sports, such as football. Where a player collides into another at a high rate of speed could lead to whiplash.
Diagnosing Whiplash and Neck Pain after a Car Accident
If you feel you are dealing with some degree of whiplash, you should visit your doctor to be accurately assessed and diagnosed. For your doctor to diagnosis you, they will conduct a physical examination and ask several questions about your injury. An example of questions asked include:
- How did your injury occur or what type of accident occurred?
- Where are you experiencing pain?
- What kind of pain are you experiencing (i.e., sharp, shooting, or dull)?
- Are you able to move or turn your head?
After the initial round of questions, your doctor will determine the next step, whether an x-ray, CT scan, or MRI is needed to ensure your discomfort isn’t connected to a more serious injury. Once the examination is completed they will offer treatment options they deem best for your specific needs.
Treatment for Whiplash and Neck Pain after a Car Accident
Treating whiplash depends on the severity of the injury. Physical therapy treatment at Peak Physiotherapy and Performance includes a specific combination of the following:
- Deep tissue massage – A deep tissue massage is a massaging technique that involves applying sustained pressure to the inner layers of connective tissue and muscle. This helps break up muscle and tissue tension, as well as scar tissue that forms after an injury. Deep tissue massages are popular among those dealing with injuries such as whiplash, because it promotes faster healing, increased blood flow, and the reduction of inflammation.
- Specific exercises – Specific exercises such as side-bends (an exercise where you tip your ears towards your shoulders) are used to target stiffness in the neck and upper back to help improve your range of motion.
- Dry needling– Dry needling is a form of treatment that uses thin monofilament needles. This helps relieve muscular pain in just 1-2 visits by placing needles in areas of hard or knotted muscle.
- Joint manipulation/adjustments – Joint manipulation refers to the usage of high velocity, low amplitude maneuvers to produce a popping sound within a joint. The purpose is to reduce pain and stiffness in joints while improving range of motion. This is often not warranted for patients with high levels of pain as it may lead to a flare up. This is best utilized later on in most whiplash treatment plans.
If you or someone you know is in search of neck pain relief stemming from a car accident, consider seeking assistance from Dr. Junak at Peak Physiotherapy and Performance. Dr. Junak has extensive experience helping relieve car accident neck pain in patients, using innovative and proven techniques.
To learn more about our treatment options to relieve neck pain, contact us for a free phone consultation today.
About the Author
Dr. Andrew Junak is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board-Certified Orthopedic Specialist. Dr. Junak received his Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Walsh University and completed his Orthopedic Specialist training at the Cleveland Clinic. He is the owner of Peak Physiotherapy and Performance, a physical therapy clinic in Canal Winchester and Blacklick, Ohio. He serves the local communities of Lancaster, Grove City, Blacklick, Pickerington, and Columbus. Dr. Junak is passionate about helping people solve their problems in order to get them back to doing the things they love.