Concussion. Head injury. These are heavy diagnoses, and for good reason. Head injuries can cause severe damage– with symptoms varying in severity from nagging headaches and migraines, to permanent mood, personality disorders, and even memory loss. It goes without saying that any injury involving the head should be subject to close scrutiny and swift care.
Of the many different types of accidents that can result in a concussion, all share one common detail: sudden impact. This impact brings another potential head injury too-- whiplash.
In addition to the host of different symptoms that a direct head injury can cause, the effects of whiplash itself can be extremely uncomfortable, resulting in neck stiffness, loss of range of motion in the neck, headaches, and dizziness. And the longer these symptoms linger, the worse you feel, compounding the healing process from a concussion, not to mention making it much more uncomfortable.
Is all of this sounding pretty grim?
Don’t fret. If you’ve suffered from a recent concussion and believe you’re experiencing effects of whiplash, there are some great, effective options to incorporate into your healing journey. In this article, we’ll walk you through some of the best ways to treat whiplash safely with conservative care, including how to manage the pain, and how to mitigate the side-effect discomforts.
The Aftermath Of A Head Injury
First and foremost, with any concussion or potential head injury, whether it’s from a car accident or sport-related contact, medical treatment should be sought out immediately. Many times, it can be difficult to understand the severity of a head injury without imaging (like an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan), proper monitoring, and ongoing care. Additionally, many concussions may initially appear to be minor, but there are a host of other symptoms that can pop up in the days and weeks following the initial event that could indicate a greater level of severity. Working one-on-one with a medical professional is critical, especially in the early phases of the injury, to ensure you are receiving all necessary care to treat your injury.
For now, let’s focus on the accident itself– the impact and how it often relates to whiplash. Whiplash happens from a sudden, back-and-forth movement of the head that mimics the cracking of a whip. Thus, the name, “whiplash.” The caution here is don’t underestimate the impact. When you’ve experienced a sudden, jarring force, you become subject to both head injury and whiplash.
This sudden injury to the neck is generally followed by symptoms of neck pain, stiffness, loss of range of motion, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and tenderness in the shoulders and upper back. Some more extreme cases also report blurred vision, ringing in the ears, memory issues, trouble sleeping, and trouble concentrating.
Effective Symptom Relief
Aside from ensuring that your healing process is on the right track with a specialized doctor, there are some steps that you can take on your own toward whiplash recovery. With that, let’s start with what you don’t want to do for whiplash.
Along with the discomfort that accompanies whiplash, it’s easy to want to immobilize or rest the neck. Resist this urge! Though some extra rest within the first 24-48 hours of the incident can be helpful, ultimately you want to encourage some gentle range of motion. Complete rest can get in the way of that and actually do more harm than good.
As far as managing whiplash at home, you’ll want to focus on a couple of key components: pain management and range of motion.
Pain Management For Whiplash
Pain management for each case of whiplash can vary significantly person-to-person, and of course, depends on the severity of the original accident. Some of the more serious cases do require prescription pain medication, muscle relaxants, or injections, but these routes shouldn’t be used automatically. As always, consult with your doctor first, but there are other gentle modalities that help provide many whiplash victims with relief.
As far as conservative at-home care options go, a great route to explore initially is alternating the application of both heat and cold to the affected area. A hot or cold pack can be applied to the neck (make sure to keep a towel in between to protect your skin!) in 15-minute increments up to six times per day. Make a mental note of which temperature provides you more relief. Some also find that alternating the temperatures to be very beneficial.
Gentle massage to the neck and shoulder area can also provide pain relief. The key here is not to get too aggressive with this kind of massage. Try asking a family member or spouse to gently massage the area in small circles, to your tolerance. Of course, use pain and discomfort as your guiding indicator. If the massage is making your pain worse, stop immediately. You should also pay attention to how your pain changes in the hours and days following the massage. Again, if you’re noticing a significant increase in pain, this signals that your neck may not be ready for massage quite yet.
Exercises For Whiplash
Being able to help yourself at home can be hugely empowering during an injury. When you’re recovering from whiplash, it’s easy to get overzealous and want to do too much, too soon. Keep in mind that these exercises are best done in moderation, and with the prescribed help from a medical professional. Use pain as a guide; if you feel any increase in pain, stop the exercise immediately.
These are about as simple as they sound! Sit upright in a chair with a neutral posture and rotate your neck to look over your shoulder in one direction slowly, until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold this position for 1-2 seconds before gently bringing your head back to the center. Repeat on each side 5-10 times, or as tolerated.
Again, begin this exercise by sitting in a neutral, relaxed position. Keep your gaze forward while slowly tilting your head down toward your shoulder, using that gentle stretching sensation as your stopping point. Hold this end range position for 1-2 seconds before slowly returning your head back to the center. Repeat on each side 5-10 times, or as tolerated.
Stay in your seated position for this exercise. Slowly lower your head toward your chest, tucking your chin as you go. Gently lift back up and return your head to neutral. Repeat 5 times.
Chiropractic Care For Whiplash Treatment
Another great way to support your healing journey through the minor head or concussion injuries is by seeking out chiropractic care. A chiropractic practitioner uses gentle adjustments of the spine and extremities to help to realign your body, decrease pressure, and provide real relief to your system. These adjustments allow your body to restore proper function, which is a huge win in your journey back to full health.
Your practitioner will be able to support your specific needs by taking a personalized approach to each session and will meet you at your unique starting point. Additionally, should any at-home strength exercises be beneficial to help your recovery process along, your chiropractor will be able to help with this too.
Don’t delay your healing any longer.
Schedule an appointment online or call (949) 380-8883.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.