Whiplash is a relatively common injury that occurs to a person’s neck following a sudden acceleration-deceleration force that causes unrestrained, rapid forward and backward movement of the head and neck, most commonly from motor vehicle accidents.
The term “whiplash” was first used in 1928. The term “railway spine” was used to describe a similar condition that was common in persons involved in train accidents prior to 1928. The term “whiplash injury” describes damage to both the bone structures and soft tissues, while “whiplash associated disorders” describes a more severe and chronic condition.
Fortunately, whiplash is typically not a life threatening injury, but it can lead to a prolonged period of partial disability.
What Causes Whiplash Injury?
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼A whiplash injury may occur if the head is moved violently away from the body because of a sudden and powerful jerk or jolt. The neck moves beyond its normal range of movement, resulting in overstretched ligaments, muscles and tendons. The injury is often exacerbated because the muscles, in order to compensate for the sudden movement, pull the head back into position too hard, causing another overstretching in the opposite direction.
The jolt (or blow to the head) can come from behind, in front, and from the side. A slow-speed collision may also cause a whiplash injury.
The following are possible causes of whiplash:
- Automobile accidents
- A sudden blow to the head from a contact sport, such as rugby, boxing, karate, or American football.
- A horse riding or cycling accident
- Any fall which causes the head to violently jolt backwards
- Being hit on the head with a heavy object
- Shaking a child/baby violently (possible child abuse)
- Punching a child/baby (possible child abuse)
Dangers of Drugs for Whiplash Injury Treatment
Millions of Australians depend on anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain, but the drugs are among the most dangerous on the market. Aside from significantly increasing your heart risks (such as a two to fourfold increase in the risk of heart attacks, stroke or cardiovascular death), NSAIDs are linked to serious gastrointestinal risks like bleeding of the digestive tract, increased blood pressure and kidney problems. Remember, this applies not only to prescription medications like Celebrex but also to over-the-counter drugs like aspirin, Advil and Motrin.
It’s very difficult to find a drug-based method of pain relief that is not saddled with severe side effects. The FDA has even recently limited the amount of acetaminophen allowed in prescription products and added a boxed warning due to liver toxicity concerns. Acetaminophen is actually the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States.
As for the opioid painkillers like OxyContin, they are among the most commonly abused prescription drugs and are a leading contributor to the rising rates of fatal prescription drug overdoses. Many become addicted after using them to treat conditions like back or neck pain.
But no matter what type of painkiller you choose, the bottom line to remember is that they do not come without risks! Unfortunately, if you visit your conventional doctor with severe neck pain, a long-term treatment plan will typically include a drug-combination approach, using anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-seizure medications, muscle relaxants and possibly other types of pain medication as well. In other words, the answer for pain relief is drugs, drugs and more drugs — each one raising your risk of suffering potentially lethal side effects.
Powerful drugs can numb your nervous system so the pain doesn’t register. While these approaches may be convenient, they can cause adverse effects and kidney or liver damage. Worse, they don’t correct the underlying cause of the headache.
How to Relieve Whiplash Injury Naturally
People genreally prefer natural remedies for treatment of neck injuries, such as:
- Proper therapy and rehabilitation: Consult a chiropractor or licensed massage therapist for several therapeutic and rehabilitative sessions. Because lactates and free radicals accumulate in injured tissue, your muscles need stimulation to increase blood flow and promote cleansing. Just as importantly, stiffness results from sustained muscle contractions, so that your tissues need proper stretching. Certified professionals know proper techniques have sophisticated touch for soothing soreness and relieving pain. Experienced homeopaths may also offer herbal, aromatherapeutic topical pain relievers that work as well as dangerous prescriptions.
- Effective pain relief: Reliable studies have shown that deep relaxation has the same pain-reducing effect as two Valium. In order to trigger your body’s release of its own feel-good chemicals, meditate with a focus or mantra and perfectly rhythmic breathing, remaining quiet and still for at least twenty minutes. You may doze; try not to fall asleep. If you are a proficient swimmer, you will get many of the same benefits from slow steady laps in the pool, and breathing on alternate sides will help you recover your strength and mobility.
- Gentle exercise to rebuild strength: Viniyoga, the gentlest and most soothing among the several styles of yoga, combines the benefits of meditation with gentle exercise to stretch and strengthen every one of the body’s major muscle systems. Physicians often prescribe Viniyoga practice for arthritis patients or others with chronic pain and soreness. Choose Viniyoga over the other, more aggressive styles, because your guide will emphasize slow, smooth transitions from pose to pose, and then will emphasize deep breathing and balance in each pose. The combination of exercise and breathing will improve circulation to and through your sore muscles.
- Neck support: Contrary to popular belief, the braces you sometimes see encircling accident victims’ necks do very little to promote recovery or ease pain. In many cases, personal injury attorneys encourage their clients to don the braces for court appearances, adding a little drama to their pleas for pain and suffering. They are better as props than proper support. To promote proper healing in your muscles and ligaments, make sure you have adequate support during sleep, pay attention to good posture while you are sitting-up, and make sure you rest your neck during the day. Immobilizing your neck for long periods does more harm than good, causing muscles to stiffen and restricting blood-flow to injured tissues.
- Try using a heating pad on a low or medium setting for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 or 3 hours. Try a warm shower in place of one session with the heating pad. You can also buy single-use heat wraps that last up to 8 hours. You can also try an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes every 2 to 3 hours. There is not strong evidence that either heat or ice will help. But you can try them to see if they help.
- Avoid activities such as lifting and sports that make pain and stiffness worse.
- Place a special pillow or a tightly rolled-up towel under your neck while you sleep. Do not use your regular pillow at the same time.
- You can try using a soft foam collar to support your neck for short periods of time. You can probably buy one at a drugstore. Do not wear the collar more than 2 or 3 days unless your doctor tells you to do so.
- ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Chiropractic Care: Chiropractic works by opening stuck joints, returning movement to the spine, and removing any nerve impingement that might be happening. If a disc herniation is involved, chiropractic is a natural way to provide a long-term solution. Chiropractic gets to the source of the problem, not just addressing the symptoms but finding the area of dysfunction and returning it normal physiology—in other words, making the area work the way it’s supposed to. When function returns, pain goes away. But mind you, getting rid of pain is not the only name of the game as far as chiropractic is concerned; return to function is the real goal, because when function returns, pain goes away on its own. Pain is nothing more than a warning signal telling you when something is wrong. Shutting off the alarm instead of investigating what is causing the alarm to go off only sets you up for a recurring problem. Once found, the solution can then be applied.