The common cause of neck pain is whiplash which is an injury involving the soft tissues of the neck due to abrupt and rapid movement of the neck and head. The most common cause of whiplash is the rear-end vehicle collision and can often lead to nerve damage and injury to the ligaments, discs, nerve roots and cervical muscles. Even though the nature of this injury can be severe, it can be managed with first aid care and treatment and typically resolves on its own within 2-3 weeks, although it can take up to 6 months to fully heal.
Symptoms of whiplash neck pain
A whiplash injury usually manifests with a variety of symptoms. Dizziness is one of the most common symptoms which occur in most cases of whiplash injuries. If accompanied by headache, it indicates a concussion.
The other symptoms can include back and shoulder pain, ligament and muscle injury and paresthesia.
Diagnosing a whiplash injury
Even though the damage can be localized only to the soft tissues situated in the neck, a diagnosis is made by undergoing X-ray of the cervical spine in case of delayed symptoms. It is also important to consult a doctor in order to rule out other serious conditions that might have the similar symptoms.
Treatment for whiplash neck pain
The treatment usually depends on the degree of injury and the muscles that have been damaged. Before the treatment is started, consulting a doctor is important since there are other conditions that can cause the symptoms that are often linked with a whiplash injury.
Primary first aid care
The initial treatment for whiplash is to rest the muscles. A soft cervical collar is placed on the neck in order to prevent unwanted movement. On the other hand, it is not best to extend its use since it can lead to neck stiffness. Take note that the length that the collar will be used should be based on the severity of the injury. Nevertheless, immobilization is also deliver minimal benefit but it can be more useful for severe cases.
Other modes of treatment
There are other steps to be taken to help minimize the pain and symptoms of whiplash neck pain. This can include the application of ice and heat to minimize the pain and muscle tension. You can learn these basic first aid measures by enrolling in a first aid course.
The application of ice involves 20-minute segments for the initial 24 hours in order to minimize the pain. Make sure that you will apply a towel or cloth between the ice and skin since direct exposure to cold can cause skin damage or irritation. Continue the application until the pain subsides. You can apply heat once the pain fully subsides to help minimize the inflammation.
NSAIDs and analgesics can be given to minimize the pain and swelling. Muscle relaxants, physical therapy and range-of-motion exercises can be used 72 hours after the injured to help restore the movement and flexibility.