Most of us will be in a car accident at some point in our lives. According to the national safety council, there are about 10 million accidents each year. The severity of these crashes range from parking lot fender-benders, to multi-car pileups. Luckily, the majority of these accidents are minor, with no fatalities or serious injuries. But that doesn’t mean people don’t get hurt. Whiplash is a common injury in even the smallest of car crashes and if not properly treated, can have a lasting impact on the victim’s life.
The most common symptom of whiplash is neck pain. This usually occurs when a vehicle is hit from behind, but is often seen in side or front collisions as well. The neck pain associated with whiplash can vary in both location and intensity. If only the muscles and ligaments are inflamed, there’s a good chance the neck could heal itself within 6 to 10 weeks. More serious injuries usually stem from facet joint pain and disc injury.
Facet Joint Pain is the most common cause of chronic neck pain after an accident. The pain usually occurs just to the right or left of the middle of the neck, in the back. The spot could be tender to the touch and is often mistaken for muscle soreness. If you believe you could have facet joint pain, your doctor can perform a facet point injection. This is a small amount of X-ray material, local anesthetic and cortisone. The amount of pain relief a patient experiences can help determine if the facet joint is in fact the source of pain.
Disc Injury is another cause of chronic neck pain. This occurs when the outer wall (annulus) of the disc is torn during whiplash. Pain is caused when the annulus doesn’t heal and nerve endings are exposed. Your doctor will usually perform a physical assessment to assess a disc injury. A CT discography or MRI can also help to pinpoint the location of the pain.
Whiplash doesn’t end with chronic neck pain. Headaches, arm pain and heaviness and lower back pain are all symptoms of whiplash. Fortunately, there are several ways to treat chronic neck pain and other symptoms associated with whiplash. Some examples of treatment are strength training, medications, spinal injections and spinal manipulative therapy. A comprehensive plan, like one designed by the specialists at the Washington Center for Pain Management, can significantly improve your chances of recovery from chronic neck pain, without surgery.