I was just rear-ended again—this makes the third time I’ve had whiplash—and I seem to feel worse each time. Is that my imagination?
Usually, whiplash symptoms resolve on their own within a few weeks or months. But for about one-third of people who get whiplash, it can be a long-term—even debilitating—disorder that never completely goes away. This is more likely to happen with repeated whiplash, especially when whiplash happens again before full recovery from the previous injury. Whiplash is the term for neck injury caused by quick, forceful back-and-forth snapping of the neck—typically from being in an auto accident, but you can also get whiplash from any kind of accident, physical abuse or trauma. Symptoms can include neck pain, neck and shoulder stiffness, headache and tingling and numbness in the arms. It’s also common to feel dizzy and to have trouble sleeping. Getting whiplash multiple times can cause changes in your autonomic nervous system that can make you more sensitive to pain anywhere in your body and cause changes to blood pressure and abnormal sweating. Trauma to the nervous system can also cause postural muscle weakness and weakness to the limbs, usually on one side of the body. Repeated whiplash can also cause benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, a condition in which sudden movement causes a sensation of spinning or that the world around you is spinning. And the stress of chronic pain can lead to anxiety and depression.
HOW TO RECOVER FROM WHIPLASHGenerally, it’s best to start treatment as soon after injury as possible. There is no one-size-fits-all therapy, but whether you’re treating your first episode of whiplash or your second (or third or fourth), these therapies can help…
- Ice within the first 72 hours of initial injury to reduce pain and swelling…after 72 hours, heat to improve circulation, improve motion and reduce pain.
- Over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen (Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
- Gentle, assisted spinal manipulation from a chiropractor.
- Physical therapy.