Getting in a car accident is a scary thing for anybody. If you know what to expect from your body, it can be a little less scary. The most common injury from a car accident is whiplash in the neck. This means that your neck went through a backward and forward movement forcefully and quickly without muscle control.
These are typical symptoms:
- Onset of neck soreness by the end of the day.
- Significant pain and stiffness in the back of the neck and shoulders for 2 to 3 days afterward.
- Headaches in the base of the skull that may wrap around your head.
- Your head may feel heavy and be difficult to hold up.
- You may feel extra tired.
Here’s a starting point to help yourself:
- Apply Ice! Yes, it is cold outside, so put a heating pad on your tummy while you ice your neck for 20 to 60 minutes 3 to 5 times per day.
- Wear a scarf firmly around your neck to give your muscles a chance to relax and not have to work so hard to hold your head up. (It’s winter, so nobody will notice.)
Start gentle movements in your neck:
- Nod: Pretend there is a stick going through your ears. This forms an axis. Gently nod your head around the stick. You can do this lying down, but don’t lift your head off the pillow. Use only small movements.
- Neck rotation: While lying down with your head and neck supported and with extra good posture, gently rotate your head from one side to the other. Avoid pushing into pain.
Use good posture, because everything heals better when you’re in a good position. Pay extra special attention to your posture while doing these exercises:
- Shoulder blade squeezes: Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat 2 sets of 10, and do them 2 to 3 times per day.
- Standing rows: With band or very light resistance on a cable machine, pull your arms back to a position where your elbow is at 90 degrees at your side. Don’t let your shoulders hunch up. Repeat 3 sets of 10, and do them daily.
If these things don’t help, and you’re not feeling better within a few weeks, then I recommend physical therapy so you can get an individualized program.
Tell your doctor and physical therapist if you experience the following:
- Numbness or tingling in your face, hands, or feet.
- Changes in your vision (double, blurry) or speech (slurred).
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, loss of consciousness, or nausea.
- Changes in bowel or bladder function.
- Coordination problems (dropping things, bumping into walls).
- Ringing in your ears.
For more information on whiplash, click here.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS and DRIVE SAFELY!