The sudden impact of vehicles during a car accident can cause the body to jolt or jerk severely back and forth, causing you to experience whiplash. Symptoms may not develop right away, and they also may take a while to dissipate, depending on the severity of the case.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident and think you may be suffering from whiplash, Atlanta orthopedic specialists will help get you on the road to recovery swiftly and safely.
Causes of Whiplash
Because the neck has such a wide range of motion and is not restrained in a car, your neck may overextend backward and forward in such a way that it causes severe strain on your neck muscles.
Especially during a rear-end collision, the abrupt stopping motion of the car causes your body to jostle around, especially if the seatbelt is not in use or the headrest is not at a proper angle.
The more extended range of motion your head and neck experience unexpectedly, the more severe the case of whiplash.
Whiplash can affect not only the neck muscles but also tendons, ligaments, the spinal column, and upper back. Initial symptoms typically include neck pain and stiffness, headaches, tenderness, and pain with range of motion or loss of range of motion in the neck.
Immediately after the accident, you may only experience neck and shoulder tension or a headache radiating from the base of the skull, but these other symptoms can develop in the days following the accident.
Other symptoms can include dizziness, fatigue, and tingling or numbness in the arms. More serious symptoms may develop, especially if the whiplash goes untreated, such as blurred vision, ringing in the ears, difficulty concentrating, and a change in mood.
Diagnosis of Whiplash
A doctor will first ask you about your symptoms and a description of how the injury occurred. They will also perform a comprehensive exam of the head, neck, back, and other affected areas as needed, in order to assess for whiplash.
While a doctor may be able to diagnose based on a physical exam, they may also want to use advanced diagnostic imaging tools to further assess the damage caused by the injury to determine the severity. The most common forms of diagnostic image tests are CT scans and MRIs.
A CT scan is like a 3D X-ray of the affected area so the doctor can view the injury from multiple angles. An MRI provides the doctor with high-resolution images of the injury site and how soft tissues are affected.
A patient’s timeline for recovery from whiplash can be difficult to predict, though it is generally considered to be linked to the severity of the symptoms. In most cases, your doctor will recommend you resume daily activities as soon as possible, with low-impact, non-invasive treatment options such as:
• using ice and heat to address the muscle spasms or inflamed area
• pain management medication
• specific exercises recommended by a physical therapist
However, if you experience a rapid onset of symptoms upon injury and severe neck pain and very limited range of motion, you may be more at risk for developing chronic pain if you do not seek treatment right away.
Other risk factors for chronic pain after whiplash include older age, injury caused by a high speed, any existing back or neck pain, or if you have had whiplash before.
At AICA Orthopedics, our team of orthopedic specialists will develop an individualized treatment plan for each patient in order to address current symptoms, the root cause, and preventative approaches to discourage chronic pain.
Our team of multidisciplinary doctors includes orthopedic specialists, neurologists, chiropractors, and physical therapists who can all address various aspects of your care and treatment plan to encourage a holistic approach to your healing. Schedule an appointment at AICA Orthopedics for a comprehensive examination and learn what treatment modalities might be right for you.