A car accident can change your life forever, and certainly not for the better. Chronic pain is definitely not unheard of following a car accident, and one of the most common versions of this pain comes in the form of chronic neck pain. These aches and pains can seem endless and perhaps even untreatable entirely. However, here at AICA Jonesboro, we believe in education over hopelessness. We hope to demystify chronic accident-related neck pain and provide hope to those who may be suffering from it.
Why Does My Neck Hurt?
Before we can discuss how to treat it, first we need to know why it happens. Neck pain is common after accidents due to two main factors: the sudden and high forces applied to the body on impact and the structure of the cervical spine itself. We need not explain just how brutally devastating a car accident can be and how it can leave a person in severe pain at best and permanently disable them at worst.
The second set of major factors have to do with the cervical spine and how it’s really not meant for even low-grade collisions.
The Cervical Spine
When we talk about the cervical spine, we’re doing so in reference to any part of the spine that’s level with or above your shoulders. The spine is made up of 33 vertebrae that stretch from the base of the head to the tailbone like rungs on a ladder. A narrow disc of spongy cartilage gives flexibility between each bone. For support, the spinal column is coated with muscle. It’s a very bendy series of bones, and at the very top of them is your head. By nature, this structure makes it highly prone to injury during events of sudden shock to the head, such as a car accident.
Whiplash is a neck injury that occurs due to forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, much like the cracking of a whip. Also, like the cracking of a whip, the forces that the end of the neck generates in an event like this are astronomical. Also referred bro as whiplash-associated disorder or WAD, the bones in the spine, disks between the bones, ligaments, muscles, nerves, and other tissues of the neck can all be injured by this action. Auto accidents are the most common cause of whiplash, with rear-end collisions having the highest chances of giving you this particular injury. If your injury is severe enough, or if it’s not properly treated, you could sustain permanent damage from it.
Symptoms of Whiplash
After a car accident, you should always immediately report to the hospital. Even if you feel fine, the shock could be masking your symptoms, or you may be having a delayed onset. The symptoms of whiplash can also often be mistaken for other ailments, so it may take a professional to gain a proper diagnosis. The symptoms of whiplash can include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Pain when moving your neck
- Loss of range of motion in the neck
- Headaches, commonly starting at the base of the skull
- Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back, or arms
- Tingling or numbness in the arms
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Sleep disturbances
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
As mentioned, whiplash can easily develop into a chronic pain disorder if the severity is high enough or if it is left untreated. Interestingly enough, the psychological symptoms of whiplash are the greatest indicator of whether or not you will develop a chronic condition, almost as if you know on some primal level that your life is about to take a turn. Other factors that may determine whether your pain becomes chronic include a history of other chronic pain, the type of vehicle you’re in, a previous history of whiplash, and prior neck disabilities.
If your whiplash seems to have drawn out for much longer than it should have, consult a doctor. It may have become a chronic disorder.
How Is It Treated?
Unfortunately, once whiplash becomes chronic, you’re stuck with it, and chances are it will get worse with age. There are a few ways to treat chronic whiplash, and it should be noted that each case will require different treatment depending on previous medical history, the severity of symptoms, and personal preference. There is no one-stop cure-all for this disorder, and lifelong treatment is your only option.
A therapy program led by a certified physical therapist or licensed health professional can assist in increasing neck strength and flexibility, alleviating stress on the spine, and reducing pain in some circumstances. This is most effective in the early stages of recovery or during flare-ups as soft tissue becomes re-injured. The methods and exercises, as well as the length of the treatment plan, can differ from one person to
If OTC or shelf-bought medications haven’t helped manage your pain, your doctor may prescribe prescription-strength pain medication to help manage your symptoms. These can include muscle relaxants and opioids. If you have a personal or family history of addictive personalities, this may not be the right treatment plan for you.
Chiropractic has also been shown to assist whiplash sufferers in pain management. This treatment, like physical therapy, is completely natural and non-invasive. However, it also targets the area of concern directly rather than just strengthening the muscles around it, making it a preferred choice by many. Though chiropractic care is generally safe and effective in treating pain disorders when performed by a good chiropractor, it should be noted that those with a medical history of spinal fractures are not recommended to enter any form of manual therapy, as there’s a chance of re-injury in these cases.
You have to know how to take care of yourself after a car accident. Whatever your needs are, and whatever your history is, the professionals at AICA Jonesboro have the experience and diverse skill set to help you treat your chronic accident-related pain. Consider calling us or stopping by our office to see how we can help you get on the road to a better life.