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If you have ever been in an automobile accident, chances are you have experienced some degree of whiplash. Whiplash is a neck injury caused by a sudden forward, backwards, or sideways movement of the head, like those caused in a car crash. If you have recently been in an accident or have experienced a blow to the head and are in pain, Advance Health and Wellness may be able to help you relieve your pain and speed up the healing process.

While many know the symptoms of whiplash all too well, some to look for are:

  • neck pain and stiffness
  • soreness
  • tenderness in the neck muscles
  • reduced and painful movement
  • headaches

When you are in a car accident, your head and neck go through a series of quick, violent motions. These forceful movements result in painfully over-stretched tendons and ligaments in the neck. The sudden stop of collisions cause these violent motions of the neck, both from the “forward” motion of the stop, and the “back” motion caused by the seatbelt restraining you. This whip-like movement of your head and neck give this injury its name.

Unlike other neck pain that is primarily focused on the muscles in the neck, the involvement of the stretched out ligaments and tendons make whiplash somewhat unique. Tendons are the bands that connect muscle to bone, and ligaments connect bones together at the joint. The level of pain you feel after your specific injury depends upon the degree to which these connections are stretched during the injury-causing incident.

In addition to automobile related cases, whiplash can be caused by sudden blows to the head or neck. Participating in contact sports such as football, rugby, boxing, and mixed martial arts can all result in whiplash injuries. Sports with less aggressive contact like gymnastics or cheerleading, which can involve sudden falls that cause the head to be jerked backwards quickly, can have the same end result.

While many injuries to the neck cause pain immediately, whiplash symptoms can take up to six to twelve hours to appear, making it more difficult to diagnose or treat initially. Many people often believe they are “just fine” after a car accident, a fall, or a sport-related injury, because they feel fine right afterwards. It is best to take it easy after any sudden, jerking motion of your neck has taken place, because you could make your injury worse by putting more strain on the affected area. This can increase the level and length of your pain.

Some people experience long-term whiplash, up to six months or more, because of an ill treated case, so after you have taken a hard hit at football practice, or you didn’t quite land that dismount at nationals, take it easy. Stay home, binge watch your favorite show from the couch, put ice on the point of contact, and prop your feet up. If you have pain and stiffness after a few hours or the next day, you may need to consult a professional.

Regardless of how you came to experience whiplash symptoms, the quicker they are treated, the better. There are home remedies, such as pain relievers with anti inflammatory properties, muscle relaxers, or hot and cold compresses that can provide temporary relief, but seeking the help of a professional can speed up the healing process, and provide a longer term solution.