Whiplash is the common term used to describe neck strain. Most people automatically associate the word with the snapping action your neck experiences when you get rear-ended in a car accident. The fact is that any forceful hit you receive that causes your head to snap either backward or forward can cause this type of injury. It’s a common issue in both professional and amateur sports, especially in contact sports like football or rugby. The pain of whiplash is the result of stretching and tearing of the muscles and tendons holding your neck.
The signs and symptoms of neck strain are almost equal to a similar condition called a neck sprain. In the latter, the tissues that hold the bones together, the ligaments, tear. On the other hand, a neck strain refers to the muscles and tendons being damaged. Either way, the cause and treatment are the same, as is the pain.
You’ll know you have experienced whiplash if immediately after getting hit and snapping your neck you feel intense pain. But it isn’t necessarily immediate; some people don’t experience the pain until several hours later. Usually, there is also substantial tightness – your neck muscles will feel knotted and hard. It will be difficult to move your head back and forth or laterally, side to side, and it’ll be almost impossible to look back over your shoulder. You might also experience headaches that seem to flow from the base up your skull upwards. If the headaches become very serious or if you begin to have difficulty talking and especially if you become drowsy and confused, you may have also experienced a concussion. It’s a wise idea to head to the emergency room immediately for a check-up.
Luckily, whiplash is a condition that will heal on its own given time and TLC. In fact, most injuries of this nature disappear after only a week or two. As usual with hits, your priority will be reducing swelling and pain first. You can accomplish that by applying ice wrapped in a towel directly to your neck for around 10 minutes every couple of hours. Keep it up until the swelling disappears. If the pain persists, you can take over-the-counter medications such as naproxen or ibuprofen.