In an emergency, disaster situation, what is it that the experts always say?
Protect the neck.
In contact sports, what is emphasized?
Protect the neck.
Protective equipment is designed specifically to?
Yup. Protect the neck.
Why then do we assume that whiplash is a normal occurrence? It’s what happens to everyone who gets into a car accident, right? Unfortunately, yes. It is extremely common in motor vehicle accidents (MVAs). Even more unfortunate is the fact that whiplash is so often poorly managed.
As a physical therapist, I should know better. Unfortunately, I underestimated the severity of my own whiplash injury several years ago. I was sideswiped causing my head to be thrown back and knocked into the side of the car door. I thought I was fine...Had to go to work...A few hours later I felt the pain and stiffness settling in and by the end of the day I had a pretty severe headache. The initial adrenaline masked my symptoms and I figured, “Eh, I’m fine”. Luckily for me I was able to get treated by a manual physical therapist the next day which quickly eased my pain. Under the expert care of a knowledgeable practitioner I did make a rapid recovery with no residual issues.
Immediate treatment of a cervical sprain/strain is essential. An injury to the neck is no joke. There is inflammation associated with various levels of damage to the joints (the “sprain” part) and surrounding soft tissues (the “strain” part).
I have treated many patients - both acutely and chronically. In an acute whiplash situation, we start with gentle soft tissue work and slowly progress as tolerated - relieving pain and stiffness, easing the often common headaches, and progressively start incorporating strength and stability exercises. Chronic cases are more difficult. These are the folks who either didn’t seek or didn’t get the care they should have and now years later they have ongoing pain, stiffness and, again, headaches.
The neck is so central to our functional abilities and anyone who has experienced headaches knows how miserable they can be! Please get the treatment you need so that you can make a successful recovery. Accidents happen, but let’s not allow an accident to change the course of your life. You have a window of opportunity to heal right, so get the skilled care you should.