The best thing you can do after a whiplash injury is to get a prompt evaluation, even if you have mild symptoms. Without an exam, you can't know if you have a common muscle strain or a more serious problem like a damaged disc or spinal nerves.
As specialists in chiropractic, our team at iMed Regeneration Center has years of experience examining neck injuries, identifying the problems we need to address, and providing gentle, effective care that relieves your pain and promotes healing.
We wrote this blog so you can recognize the top signs of a whiplash injury and get early treatment to prevent long-lasting problems.
A whiplash injury occurs when your neck rapidly and forcefully snaps back and forth. As a result, the tissues in your neck move beyond their normal range of motion, causing muscle strains and ligament sprains.
In addition to damaging the soft tissues, a severe whiplash injury can affect the spinal nerves, vertebrae, discs, and facet joints.
Auto injuries cause most cases of whiplash, but you can experience the same type of injury during athletic activities or physical trauma. You could even end up with a whiplash during enjoyable activities like riding in a roller coaster.
After a whiplash injury, your symptoms may be mild or severe. Symptoms could appear immediately or not for several days. After a traumatic injury, your body releases chemicals like adrenaline and endorphins, which naturally reduce pain sensations and cause a delayed reaction.
Once symptoms appear, you may experience one or more of the following:
As the most common whiplash symptom, some degree of neck pain and stiffness affects most whiplash sufferers. Though neck pain usually develops due to pulled muscles and ligaments, the pain may also occur from damage to any of the structures in your spine.
Damage to your neck leads to inflammation, which adds to your pain. Additionally, strains and sprains often result in muscle spasms or knots, which are known for being incredibly painful.
An injury to the structures supporting your neck also leads to stiffness. In some cases, even the slightest movement causes excruciating pain.
Upper back pain is the second most common sign of whiplash. The force of a whiplash injury can easily extend into your shoulders and back, stretching and damaging the supporting soft tissues. Pulled muscles may also cause pain between your shoulder blades.
Any time you have a neck injury, you can also develop headaches. Cervicogenic headaches begin when you injure the tissues in your neck. Then the pain travels up the spinal nerves and into your head.
A cervicogenic headache feels worse when you move your neck. This type of headache also causes symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and difficulty moving.
If your injury results in nerve damage or a pinched nerve, you may experience sensations like tingling, burning, and numbness. These sensations travel through your shoulders and down your arms.
You could also have pain that radiates down your arm. In severe cases, you may have muscle weakness in your arms and hands.
Your esophagus and larynx may become injured as your neck whips back and forth. If that happens, you develop symptoms such as hoarseness and difficulty swallowing and chewing.
Receptors in your neck send information to your vestibular system, which is responsible for balance. A traumatic neck injury disrupts this process, which in turn leads to dizziness, vertigo, and the loss of balance.
You may also experience symptoms like ringing in your ears, and changes in your vision.
Chiropractic care does an exceptional job of helping your neck heal. Using gentle techniques that are safe for neck injuries, we ease your pain, reduce inflammation, and restore neck strength and mobility.
If you have a whiplash injury, call us at our iMed Regeneration Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, or book an appointment online today.