Neck Pain or Headaches after a Car Accident? You Might Have Whiplash!
Whiplash is a neck injury due to forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip.
It mainly occurs during a rear-end auto accident. However, this injury can also be sustained through physical abuse, sports, or other trauma. When whiplash happens as a result of a sports injury, athletic trainers often work in tandem with physical therapists to provide the best care.
Common signs and symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, stiffness, and headaches.
Whiplash may be called a neck sprain or strain, but these terms also cover other types of neck injuries.
Most people with whiplash after a car accident get better within a few weeks. This injury recovery happens after following a treatment plan that includes pain medication and physical therapy in the form of exercise, soft tissue manipulation (like the Graston technique), ergonomics education as well as modalities. Active release treatment may also help in some cases. However, some people have chronic neck pain and other long-lasting complications.
Take action and learn about what whiplash is, common symptoms, and how to manage a neck injury and other symptoms after a car accident.
Most Common Symptoms of Whiplash
Signs and symptoms of whiplash from a car accident usually occur about 24 hours of the injury and may include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Worsening of pain with neck movement
- Loss of range of motion in the neck
- Headache after the car accident (sometimes associated with a concussion)
- Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back or arms
- Tingling or numbness in the arms and hands
Managing Pain After A Car Accident
If you’re experiencing neck and shoulder pain after a car accident, a constant headache, or other symptoms, you should take immediate action with the following suggestions:
- Your Doctor could prescribe pain medications (over-the-counter or prescription) as well as some muscle relaxers
- A cervical collar may be used for the first few days of a neck injury from a car accident, but use should be limited to the time period prescribed.
- Cold packs or ice can be applied to the neck to minimize swelling and pain. Apply ice/cold to the neck area for 7-10 minutes.
- Limit motion of the head and neck until pain and muscle tightness is gone.
- Limit strenuous activities such as sports or heavy lifting if your neck hurts after a car accident.
- See a physical therapist, someone that provides exercises and manual techniques for injury recovery and pain relief.
Some basic exercises can help alleviate symptoms like migraines after a car accident or after an accident like a slip and fall. They also restore the range of motion (ROM) in your neck to get you back to your normal activities.
These exercises may include:
- Rotating your neck in both directions
- Tilting your head side to side
- Bending your neck toward your chest
- Rolling your shoulders
- Lifting your arms
In some cases, patient pain isn’t limited to the neck and shoulders. After particularly bad accidents, this pain may spread into the arms, legs, and lower back. Not only is this distressing and painful, but it also requires a different type of injury recovery. Why? When other areas are impacted, patients need to heal them, too.
How a Physical Therapist Treats Patients After a Car Accident
A physical therapist will create an individualized plan to help manage neck and back pain after a car accident. They often take a whole body health approach and focus on other symptoms, too. This improves your function and abilities over time.
These will be in the form of range of motion exercises, muscle strengthening, soft tissue mobilization, and manual therapy interventions as well as modalities. The right course of action differs between patients, but working with professionals is essential.
A constant headache after a car accident, neck pain, and other symptoms need to be addressed as soon as possible.
Even if the pain decreases without treatment, you shouldn’t ignore it. Another thing not to ignore? Pain that spreads to other areas of the body like the hands, arms, legs, and even the lower back. Though they aren’t common with mild car accidents, the more severe ones often result in whole body aches and pains and the need for prolonged injury recovery.
With direct access to physical therapy, you don’t need a referral to book an appointment with a physical therapist. Using the BetterPT clinic location tool or mobile app, you can find top physical therapists. These therapists can manage and treat your whiplash symptoms after a car accident.
Reddy Care-Physical Therapy empowers patients to take control of their health and well-being. Their plans of care are tailored to each patient’s unique needs, and they involve their patients in every step of the process.