Managing Your Whiplash Pain – Part One
It''s always a shock, that sudden bang from behind as the vehicle following you hits the back of your vehicle, shunting you forward with greater or lesser violence depending on the speed. The rear shunt vehicle accident is very common and the most frequent cause of whiplash injury and whiplash associated disorder (WAD) but whiplash can occur in any situation where significant acceleration is suddenly applied to the body. Because the head is a heavy object balanced on top of a slender column (the neck), it moves with its own momentum when accelerated, in a complex and not completely understood manner.
As the head moves backwards and forwards many anatomical structures in the neck can suffer damage, including the muscles, ligaments, facet joints, discs and nerves. Whiplash can result in a large number of symptoms, all troublesome and some medically serious, including pain in the head, neck, shoulders, arms and upper thorax and pins and needles or other altered sensations in the same areas. If you have dizziness, double vision, swallowing problems or difficulties with coordination and walking then you should have immediate medical evaluation.
Don''t panic is the first thought. The level of pain can be very severe but often does not reflect the underlying seriousness of the injury or damage but rather the acute nature of the pain where the nervous system is highly amplifying the incoming pain signals. This forces you to take the problem seriously and do something about it. The high levels of pain are a problem in that they wind the nervous system up and cause changes in the ways the nerves react. So it''s important to realise this is an acute injury and will settle with time, it''s just a lot harder to manage than a pulled muscle in the back because of its location.
Controlling the pain is an important matter and it''s vital to take enough analgesia to get the pain down to a manageable level to allow reduced function, moderately comfortable rest and some sleep. Medical advice should be taken but it makes sense to take the maximum safe levels of the major painkiller groups such as paracetamol, anti-inflammatories and codeine or morphine medications. The pain is the enemy here and strong control will really make a difference, preventing the pain cycles from being set up in the nervous system with the negative side effects over the longer term.
Author: Jonathan Blood-Smyth