Occurring when muscles and ligaments in the neck are stretched or pulled, whiplash is the most common neck-related injury associated with car accidents. Treating whiplash or any other neck injury that may result from the force of impact starts with confirming the source of pain and continues with efforts to find meaningful remedies.
Recognizing Neck Injury Symptoms
While some neck injuries require nothing more than some rest and the modification of movements, signs of a lingering neck injury shouldn’t be ignored. Whiplash symptoms may include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Pain affected by movement
- Reduced range of motion
- Shoulder and arm tenderness
Initial treatment for a neck injury usually involves over-the-counter pain medications and the application of heat or ice periodically through the day for the first few days after the injury. Muscle relaxants may be prescribed by a Los Angeles spine surgeon to ease discomfort from muscle spasms, especially if a patient has difficulty sleeping because of pain due to the injury.
Neck braces, or cervical collars, may be worn immediately following a neck injury to prevent movement and encourage healing. Such devices are no longer recommended for long-term use since prolonged instability can weaken neck muscles. Current recommendations include the use of a soft, foam collar for only 3-4 hours at a time during the first few days following the injury.
After any swelling from the initial injury subsides, exercise therapy may be recommended to strengthen neck muscles. Often performed under the supervision of a physical therapists, suggested exercises may include:
- Anterior shoulder stretches
- Neck rotations to improve range of motion
- Stretches targeting upper-back muscles
Injections placed directly into the affected area of the neck may be used to provide immediate–although temporary–relief. Injections are sometimes recommended to allow a patient to participate in physical therapy to strengthen neck muscles without pain.
Signs of a neck injury from a car accident may not always be immediately evident. In some cases, related nerve damage may worsen with natural movements. If you notice symptoms appearing later, including unusual pain or tingling in your shoulders and arms, see your doctor.
Meet with a Specialist
If neck pain persists and is interfering with your ability to carry out daily activities, it’s likely time to speak with a board-certified orthopedic surgeon in Los Angeles who can determine the origin of the pain and provide you with treatment options. Schedule an in-person consultation with a professional and experienced spine surgeon by calling (310) 828-7757 today.