A neck strain is better known as whiplash. Most times, this injury is associated with car accidents. Whiplash happens when you sustain any blow or impact that will cause your head to jerk backward, forward or side to side. This motion causes severe neck strain. When your neck is impacted by such force, it tears and stretches the tendons and muscles in your neck.
A neck strain is different from a neck sprain, but the two are often confused with one another. A strain is when damage is done to your neck muscles or tendons, which connect muscles to bone. A sprain is caused by the tearing of ligaments, which is the tissue that connects bones to each other.
Strains and sprains and the difference between the two most likely don’t mean much to the average person. The treatment, symptoms, and causes of both these injuries are typically the same and are both forms of ‘whiplash.’
Symptoms of Whiplash
It is almost impossible to ignore the pain associated with whiplash. The symptoms include:
· The muscles in your neck may feel knotted or hard. You may experience pain, tightness in your neck, and a decrease in your range of motion.
· When rocking your head forward, backward, or from side to side, you may feel serious pain.
· Stiffness or pain when you move your head to look over your shoulder
· Tenderness in your neck
· Headache that radiates from the base of your skull towards your forehead
Often the pain from whiplash will be immediate; in some cases, it can take days or hours before you will notice discomfort in your neck. Many times when a person experiences a whiplash injury, the blow that caused it can also create a concussion. Concussions are serious medical issues, so you should consult with your doctor as soon as possible after the injury is sustained.
How a Doctor Diagnoses Whiplash
When you go to the doctor with whiplash symptoms, your doctor will perform a complete examination. They may request you have an X-ray and/or computed tomography (CT) scan to rule out other injuries. Your doctor should be able to diagnose a case of whiplash through the history of how the injury occurred and a physical exam.
Whiplash injuries are most often limited to your soft tissues such as muscles, ligaments, and discs, so these will not appear on X-rays.
Treatment for Whiplash
Whiplash can heal on its own, but there are steps you can take to help with the recovery and reduce the risk of chronic pain:
· To reduce swelling and pain, you can apply ice to your neck as soon as possible after you sustain the injury. Do this for about 15 minutes every three to four hours for the next two to three days. Keep the ice in a towel or cloth to prevent freeze injuries to your skin.
· Your doctor may recommend you take NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as Advil, Motrin, or ibuprofen to help with swelling and pain.
· Moist heat can be used on your neck, but only if you have done two to three days of icing first. You will only want to apply heat after the swelling has gone down on your neck.
Healing Time for Whiplash
Your recovery time for a whiplash injury will depend on how serious your injury has become. Whiplash injuries can take weeks to months to heal. It takes at least six weeks for your body to repair any tearing that may have occurred in the muscles. It is important to remember that everyone heals at a different rate.
Once the acute symptoms are gone, you should check with your doctor about helping your neck muscles to become limber and stronger once again.