After a car accident, it is common to feel a variety of aches and pains over the course or days or even weeks following the incident. Even when no major injury is identified at the scene, a general soreness or discomfort may be common, making it hard to identify more serious conditions like whiplash. How do you know when it’s time to visit a car accident doctor in Marietta instead of wishing the pain away? There are some common signs of whiplash injury that you can look for if you understand the injury and its impact on the body.
What Is Whiplash?
One of the most common injuries sustained during an accident is whiplash which happens when your car is hit, causing your body to jerk forward and backward in an unrestrained and unnatural way. When this happens, the soft tissue in the neck area is often strained beyond its normal elasticity, causing tears or other injuries to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in this area. This phenomenon is known as hyperextension, where the cervical spine forms an unusual S-shape, impacting the soft tissue in that area.
When Do You Feel Whiplash?
While the initial injury occurs at the moment of impact, you may not realize that symptoms of whiplash may not be apparent for hours or even days after the crash. This is not because the injury isn’t there, but your body may be shielding you from the pain. Adrenaline begins to course through our body as soon as a scary or stressful situation occurs, which can hide pain until it subsides. As you go through the initial shock of the accident and deal with the aftermath, your body may be in a state of shock for a period before you are finally able to identify symptoms. If something feels unusual but you aren’t able to fully assess your injuries yet, you may visit a car accident doctor before symptoms even occur in full force.
How Whiplash May Feel
The most commonly cited symptoms of whiplash are pain and stiffness in the neck as a result of the muscles and tendons being stretched or torn when hyperextended. For most people, this stiffness makes certain motions excruciating or impossible, while others will be able to move but experience pain when doing so. It is important not to purposefully move your head or arms in a way that worsens this pain, as it is likely to worsen the site of the injury.
As your body begins to register the injury, you may also notice swelling and inflammation in the area. Often, a swollen area is tender to the touch or feels knotted. Pressing may exacerbate the issue, so try to avoid pressure where you see swelling.
Another common symptom is headaches as a result of the brain being jolted during the crash. While this is often another manifestation of the whiplash, car accidents put you at higher risk for traumatic brain injuries like concussions and if headaches are paired with blurred vision, loss of concentration or memory, or trouble staying conscious, you should seek immediate medical attention. You may also mention dizziness and ringing in your ears as risk factors for further brain injuries.
In more serious cases of whiplash, the nerves in the spine and neck can be affected and cause other symptoms. A tingling feeling that begins in the neck and moves down through the arms and fingers is common, as well as the “pins and needles” feeling in your neck and shoulders. If you are experiencing this, it is likely a nerve was damaged or pinched and will need special attention.
Diagnosing and Treating Whiplash
When you visit a car accident doctor in Marietta, they will likely start by speaking with you about the above symptoms to see if you may be experiencing whiplash. They may also perform a physical exam where they feel the area, or call for imaging to be completed that allows them a better view of the bones and tissues. Once it has been confirmed you have whiplash, the condition is usually able to be managed well and heal within a few months’ time.
Doctors will often prescribe simple home remedies like rest, ice packs, heating pads, and warm showers to address the initial pain. While that rest is important and you shouldn’t participate in anything strenuous, it is actually best practice to avoid neck braces and instead focus on regaining strength in the neck. Paired with range of motion exercises, your doctor will help track your progress and manage your pain as you heal.
If you have recently been in an accident, AICA Marietta has a staff of experts, from pain management specialists to orthopedic doctors, focusing on car accident victims. Call us today to begin experiencing relief!