How Whiplash Damages Your Neck and Spine

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Whiplash is a common neck injury. Whether it’s the result of a car accident or other abrupt impact, whiplash strains the muscles and soft tissues of your spine, leading to pain, stiffness, and other issues. Learn the signs and what to do about it.

An estimated 2 million Americans suffer whiplash annually. It’s one of the most common neck injuries in the country, and yet many people overlook the neck pain, stiffness, and headaches in hopes that the symptoms will go away on their own.

Whiplash is the result of a sudden impact that snaps your head back and forth sharply. It strains the muscles and soft tissues along your spine, and while it might not seem serious at first, whiplash can develop into chronic neck pain if it’s left untreated.

As leading pain specialists in Hamilton, New Jersey, Dr. Maher Ibrahim and our team at Interventional Pain Management Associates understand the impact that whiplash can have on your neck and spine. In this blog post, we explore how whiplash happens and what to do about your symptoms.

What happens in a whiplash injury

Whiplash is most often associated with car accidents. It’s true that front- and rear-end crashes are a common cause of whiplash, but they’re far from the only possible cause.

Any activity that forces your head back and forth in that characteristic “cracking whip” motion can lead to whiplash injury. Playing contact sports, riding roller coasters, suffering a blow to the head, and other incidents can all cause whiplash too.

Plus, you don’t have to be moving fast for your spine to suffer damage. Whiplash injuries in car accidents can occur at speeds as low as 5-10 miles per hour.

No matter the cause of your injury, whiplash happens when your head snaps back and forth abruptly. The sudden motion causes your spine to stretch outside its normal range. This stretching can strain or sprain the joints, muscles, tendons, or ligaments in your neck.

You might not feel pain at first. But in the days and weeks following your injury, noticeable symptoms may develop.

The most common symptoms of whiplash are:

  • Neck pain
  • Neck stiffness
  • Neck tenderness
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Pain that worsens when you move your head
  • Headaches
  • Tingling of numbness in your arms
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

If you suffer a traumatic injury and you notice any of these symptoms developing, don’t hesitate to schedule a doctor’s appointment. Whiplash may not heal on its own, and for some people, it can develop into chronic neck pain.

What to do about whiplash symptoms

Dr. Ibrahim and our team specialize in whiplash diagnosis and treatment. If you have symptoms of whiplash, we review your medical history and do a comprehensive exam. If needed, we may order imaging, like an X-ray or MRI, to confirm your diagnosis.

For mild whiplash injuries, we may recommend over-the-counter pain medication and a few days of rest. Applying heat or cold to your neck for about 15 minutes every few hours can also relieve discomfort.

For more serious whiplash injuries, we may order prescription pain medication, muscle relaxants, or injections to help manage pain. We also recommend physical therapy, stretching, and gentle exercises to rebuild strength and mobility in your neck as you heal.

Whiplash strains your neck and spine, but it doesn’t have to lead to chronic pain. You can count on expert whiplash care with us at Interventional Pain Management Associates. Call our office at 609-757-9860 or schedule a consultation online now.