Following a car accident — especially a rear-end collision — it is important that you monitor yourself for symptoms of whiplash. Whiplash can develop immediately after an accident but typically, symptoms take days to develop.
Usually, whiplash gets better within a few weeks and with the help of medications and exercise. However, some cases can result in complications and lead to long-term chronic neck pain. To prevent this from happening to you, you should see a doctor immediately following an accident, even if you do not yet experience pain. A doctor will attempt to diagnose you and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Mayo Clinic explains the diagnostic methods doctors use on potential whiplash patients as well as typical treatment plans.
Before ordering any tests or performing an examination, your doctor will want to know if you experience any of the symptoms of whiplash. The most common symptoms include neck pain and stiffness, loss of range of motion of the neck, pain that worsens with movement, chronic headaches, dizziness, tingling or numbness through the arms, and fatigue. Your doctor may also ask about the severity of your symptoms and the frequency with which you experience them.
Once he or she has an idea of how you feel, your doctor will perform a physical exam. He or she may also ask you to perform simple tasks to gain a better idea of the severity of your condition. Though health professionals cannot detect whiplash via imaging tests, your doctor may order a CT scan, X-rays, an MRI or all three to check for other conditions.
If your doctor diagnoses you with whiplash, he or she will likely give you medication to manage the pain. He or she may also recommend things you can do at home to get more comfortable and speed up your recovery. Those include resting, applying hot and cold in timed intervals, using muscle relaxants, and doing approved exercises and stretches. Depending on the severity of your case, your doctor may also recommend physical therapy and/or give you a foam collar to support your neck.