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How Do I Recover after Whiplash?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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After whiplash, it is important to seek a thorough medical evaluation to get the best advice on treatment and rule out issues like hairline fractures of the vertebrae that could become dangerous without treatment. The treatment protocol usually involves rest, bracing the neck, and the gradual introduction of physical therapy to rebuild strength in the neck. Treatments can include massage and bodywork as well as conventional therapies like painkillers. In cases where whiplash is connected with an accident and another party may be liable, it is important to maintain scrupulous documentation for any claims against insurance companies or suits in court to recover damages.

Whiplash occurs when the neck moves rapidly back and forth, straining muscles and tendons. The most common cause is a car accident. In a situation where a driver is hit from behind, for example, his head will slam forward and then whip back into the headrest. Wearing restraints can protect the driver, and some headrests have additional features to combat whiplash, but it is still possible to develop this condition. After any kind of accident involving rapid neck movement, especially if the patient experiences pain, it is a good idea to see a doctor.

A doctor handling a patient after whiplash can take some medical imaging studies, palpate the neck, and question the patient about symptoms and signs of discomfort. The examination will help the doctor determine the nature and extent of the injury. After ruling out conditions that may require treatments like surgery, the doctor will usually recommend wearing a soft collar to immobilize the neck, and resting for the first few days or weeks after whiplash. On the first night, icing the neck and taking pain medications can help minimize swelling and discomfort.

Normal physical activities can resume as the patient rebuilds strength. The doctor may give the patient exercises to perform at home during recovery, and he can also go to a physical therapist for exercises. Some patients find it helpful to visit a chiropractor or massage therapist after whiplash, and insurance companies often pay for these services if a doctor documents that they are medically necessary.

Certain symptoms can be red flags after whiplash. An altered level of consciousness, blurred vision, and slurred speech are signs that a patient may have a head injury. She should be taken to a hospital for immediate treatment. Patients who notice numbness, tingling, or poor coordination may have pinched cervical nerves and should return to the doctor for evaluation.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
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