When you are involved in a car accident, particularly a low-speed or rear-impact crash, you are very likely to suffer from whiplash as a result. Not only is whiplash the most common injury sustained during a car accident, but it is also one of the most-cited reasons for chronic neck pain. During a post-accident visit to a Snellville chiropractor, you will be evaluated for symptoms of whiplash. If you do show symptoms of this condition, your recovery will depend on a number of factors, but it can be helpful to know what to expect from your treatment plan.
What Is Whiplash?
While it is most commonly associated with car accidents, whiplash can actually occur in any scenario where the neck experiences a sudden or violent jolt that damages the soft tissues in the area. When you are in a vehicle that is hit, the jolt experienced by the head and neck can cause this damage to occur, lending itself to whiplash. It can also occur during a sports injury, slip and fall, or certain work accidents. The damage is most often a sprain or strain to the neck, and it can affect the muscles, ligaments, tendons, or nerves to varying degrees. Severe cases may also lead to disc herniation or fractures.
It will often take one to two days for symptoms of whiplash to be noticed, though some people experience pain immediately. In addition to pain, whiplash can cause stiffness in the neck, upper back pain, and a decreased range of motion. Left untreated, it can also lead to headaches, fatigue, trouble sleeping, or dizziness.
Because of the range of symptoms, diagnosing whiplash can be difficult and will rely primarily on timely and accurate reporting by the person suffering from the injury.
How Long Does It Last?
For some people, symptoms of whiplash will resolve quickly with little intervention, but many people continue to experience symptoms for weeks, months, or even years. Some people even suffer from chronic whiplash that causes lifelong effects. However, about 90% of cases are resolved within 3 months.
When whiplash lasts 6 months or more, it is deemed a chronic case. In addition to the pain and stiffness, a person suffering from chronic whiplash may also suffer from regular headaches. Many people in this situation suffer from mental health effects, often depression, due to their reduced ability to engage in daily activities.
In most cases, when whiplash lasts beyond 6 months, it signals that there was deeper damage caused to the nerves, discs, or ligaments. This damage may need to be addressed by a Snellville chiropractor in addition to regular whiplash treatment to resolve the issue.
Reducing Impact of Whiplash
While anyone in a vehicle is subject to whiplash, there are ways to reduce the risk that your case will be severe. Recognizing risk factors and adjusting behavior can make whiplash more treatable and shorten your prognosis.
Certain people will be more prone to whiplash due to demographics and medical history. While men and women can be impacted by whiplash equally, women have been shown to be more likely to be diagnosed with whiplash following a car accident. Additionally, the likelihood of suffering whiplash increases as we age and the body begins certain degenerative processes. Age also allows more time for prior injuries to occur, particularly prior neck injuries, which can worsen the effects of whiplash. Those with a history of injuries may be more likely to sustain whiplash, have more severe cases, and need longer times for recovery.
While you cannot control these factors, there are steps you can take to reduce your own risk of sustaining whiplash. Wearing a seatbelt is always the most important thing you can do, along with adjusting your seat and headrest so that the seatbelt sits properly across your body. Headrests are often overlooked as a risk factor, but they can play a large role in whiplash prevention.
Ideally, your seat should be inclined at a 20-degree angle or less, helping you to stay in your seat during a collision. Your headrest should be level with your head, or slightly above that level. A low head restraint can worsen whiplash. The headrest should also be two to three inches from the back of your head. This will help reduce the risk, or severity, of whiplash.
Treating Your Whiplash
If you have recently been in a car accident, visiting a Snellville chiropractor is always imperative to have any potential injuries assessed. If you are suffering from whiplash symptoms, it is even more important to seek care to begin healing. At AICA Snellville, our experienced chiropractors can evaluate your injury and create a customized treatment plan, designed to help you heal quickly and effectively. Contact AICA Snellville today to begin your personalized treatment.