Whiplash is the brunt of many lawsuits and lawyer jokes but if you’re suffering from it, you know it is NOT funny at all.
Many people who are in car accidents will suffer from whiplash. This injury to the soft tissues in the neck can be mild or severe and sometimes you can be unaware that you have been injured until hours or sometimes days later.
Unfortunately, this delay in symptoms causes some people to neglect treatment. They assume that since they already told paramedics or the other party that they were “OK” that they shouldn’t bring it up later. Who would believe them?
So, they hope that the pain will go away quickly, they might take some over the counter pain meds and try to wait it out, not knowing that this is a terrible mistake.
The neck is a complicated chain of ligaments, bones, muscles, and discs. Any injury to this area can cause intense pain and inhibit normal daily living. If you have ever slept on your neck wrong and had a “kink” in it the next day, then you have a small idea of what whiplash victims feel (only they have a much more intense and long-lasting level of pain).
What Happens When You Leave Whiplash Untreated?
For those who have even a minor case of whiplash, neglecting to seek proper treatment as soon as possible means you are running the risk of having those whiplash symptoms hang on for much, much longer than if you had treatment.
Common Symptoms of Chronic Whiplash
When whiplash is severe or in cases where whiplash receives no treatment, you can suffer from the painful long-term effects of whiplash and its consequences for months or even years afterward.
Untreated whiplash symptoms (often called Chronic Whiplash) can include:
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Difficulty sleeping
- Jaw pain
- Pain and/or stiffness in the shoulders
- Pain and/or stiffness in the neck
- Upper and/or lower back pain
- Severe, frequent headaches
- Numbness or weakness in the legs and/or arms
- Memory and concentration problems (brain fog)
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
It is a well-documented fact that some people experience the pain of whiplash for years afterwards! This set of symptoms is known as WAD or whiplash-associated disorder.
How long can whiplash affect you? To be honest, years. Some of the studies, such as the one above, showed that even 5 years after the incident, people were still suffering from WAD.
There are at least 5 things you should never do, or at the very least avoid as much as possible, when you suffer from whiplash.
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Common Whiplash Mistakes You Must Avoid
When people do not have the benefit of asking their chiropractor questions and they don’t have a set of guidelines to follow, they sometimes end up doing (or not doing) things that make their pain worse and increase the amount of time their body needs to heal.
The top 5 most common mistakes include:
Mistake #1 – Driving
We realize that you probably want to return to work as soon as possible, and depending on the type of job you have, you should do this. Although you probably think the opposite, you should stay as active as possible to help your neck heal more quickly.
However, if your neck is so stiff that you cannot turn your head to see traffic behind you or if it hurts too much to do so, you should not drive! You should never rely solely on your mirrors when driving as they contain many blind spots.
Since most people end up with whiplash due to a car accident, the last thing you want to be involved in while you have whiplash is another car accident! You could cause extreme injury to your neck that might require hospitalization or surgery.
Be safe and don’t drive! Find another option for returning to work, but before you do, read about Mistake #2 first!
Mistake #2 – Returning to Regular Daily Activities Too Soon
This is where no seeking treatment causes you more pain and longer healing time than if you seek professional help.
Some people make the mistake of returning to their daily activities too quickly. Whether you work full time, part-time, are a stay-at-home mom, volunteer, or coach little league, when you suffer from whiplash, your body needs time to heal but at the same time, you need to stay as active as possible.
This is the time to speak to your chiropractor about what activities they feel you can return to safely. Without some guidance, you run the risk of either doing too much too soon and making your whiplash worse, or you can sit on your butt too long, which also makes your whiplash worse.
Don’t aggravate your whiplash! It can also cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and intense headaches. Seek out your local chiropractor for sensible advice before returning to your regular daily schedule.
Mistake #3 – Wearing a Neck Brace
Many people get a neck brace to help with their pain when they’ve suffered whiplash and we can understand why; it feels good! It’s not a cure-all, but it does offer some level of pain relief.
Unfortunately, if you wear the neck brace for more than 48 hours, you are actually increasing the amount of time your body will need to heal. The neck brace will not allow you to stretch your neck muscles nor will it let them return to their proper position.
Wear your neck brace for no longer than 48-72 hours max! After that, use ice or heat to control the pain and inflammation. Your chiropractor can offer you other valuable advice on how to stretch your neck and control the pain. You can also read about how to do some of those things here.
Mistake #4 – Lying in Bed or Couch Surfing
When you fail to get treatment for whiplash, a great many people try to deal with the pain and stiffness by lying in bed, couch surfing, or using their reclining chair. Like the neck brace, this is a good idea for the first 48-72 hours, but if you continue to spend hours each day lying down, you are only making matters worse.
Your neck needs to have some movement and stretching to help it get stronger and return to its normal function. Imagine how quickly your legs would weaken if you didn’t use them for weeks at a time? Your neck is no different.
Some downtime is normal, your body has been injured, but don’t take it too far. Your chiropractor can help you find ways to reduce the pain and show you how to stretch and strengthen your neck, so you can heal more quickly.
Mistake #5 – Neglecting to Get Treatment
This is perhaps the worst mistake of all. Does whiplash go away on its own? We will be honest, yes, it can, but why would you risk dealing with this type of intense pain and other symptoms when you can treat the problem? There are effective ways to get rid of whiplash naturally.
Your chiropractor is the best choice for treating whiplash, even if your case is a mild one. You will need x-rays, a CT scan, or an MRI to determine the exact extent of your injuries. Along with whiplash, you could have a significant injury to the ligaments in the neck or even a herniated disc.
Once the chiropractor has performed a thorough exam and diagnosis, a treatment plan will be set in place. You should follow through on your chiropractor’s advice and finish the treatment plan, even if you feel better after a few days or weeks.
You might worry that your chiropractor will give your stiff, painful neck a good wrenching as you see in those wild social media videos. This certainly won’t be the case. In fact, if this is the first time you have seen a chiropractor, you will want to read this article.
Chiropractors deal with hundreds of whiplash cases every year. They understand how painful your neck is, so they won’t be doing anything more than the gentlest of adjustments to help restore the normal position of the neck muscles and joints.
Depending on your injuries, your chiropractor’s whiplash treatment might also employ other conservative, healing therapies such as:
- Chiropractic massage
- Infrared (cold laser)
- Physical therapy stretching exercises
- Rehabilitation exercises
- TENs unit (mild electrical stimulation)
Of course, while it’s impossible to avoid a car accident or other injuries (such as sporting accidents), keeping your health in good, overall condition can help to speed up your recovery time.
Good health measures you can employ every day include moderate exercise, not smoking, eating a natural, mainly plant based diet, getting regular check-ups from your doctor, dentist, and chiropractor, getting annual flu vaccinations, taking anti-inflammatory supplements if needed, and not drinking to excess.
Your local chiropractor can help you with almost all of the above or they can offer you valuable advice regarding your overall health choices.
If you are suffering from whiplash, neck pain, back pain, or any other type of musculoskeletal pain, the doctors at Better Health Chiropractic and Rehab encourage you to call us for a same-day appointment. We will be happy to check your insurance for you and if you have no insurance, be sure to read this article before deciding that you can’t afford treatment.
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About the Author
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. His practice has treated thousands of patients from different health problems using services designed to help give long-lasting relief.
Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe, Organic Facts, and Thrive Global. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.