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What can I do to help my whiplash recovery?

What can I do to help my whiplash recovery?

Whiplash can be painful and restrict movement and a whiplash recovery can be long and tedious. After a whiplash injury, you will probably be very keen to speed up your recovery and get back to normal as quickly as possible.

Fortunately, the whiplash recovery period for most people is relatively short and most will get better with very little treatment. This short-lived type of whiplash is also referred to as ‘acute whiplash.’ If the symptoms of whiplash last for more than six months, the condition is known as ‘chronic whiplash.’

One study, quoted by on the NHS website, found that the average recovery time for a whiplash injury, without associated symptoms, was 32 days but that 12% of the study’s participants had not fully recovered after six months.

An early sign of chronic whiplash is severe pain at the time of injury. This suggests that your recovery is likely to be longer and you may have a range of symptoms.

If your whiplash injury has been caused by a vehicle accident (as most whiplash injuries are), you may have other injuries as well, such as bruising or chest pain, caused by the restraining force of your seat belt. These other injuries may delay your recovery.

The symptoms of whiplash can include pain and swelling in the neck, restricted movement and headaches. These symptoms can have an adverse effect on your life. You may need to miss work and you may not be able to carry out your everyday activities. This can be extremely frustrating. The best way to speed your recovery is to speak to a doctor and follow their advice carefully. You may think that the pain is not severe enough to see a doctor but getting checked over and receiving advice about your recovery is always a wise move.

Most healthcare professionals agree that ‘active interventions’ are more likely to aid recovery than ‘inactive interventions.’ Active interventions include neck exercises and making sure you keep your neck mobile. Inactive interventions include resting the neck or wearing a neck brace or collar. Keeping mobile may be painful but it will help to speed up your recovery. If you keep your neck immobile, it is likely to delay your recovery and may even make your symptoms worse. Whiplash is caused by a strain on the neck so strengthening the muscles in your neck is a good way to get your neck back to normal.

In addition to any exercises suggested for your neck, you should also maintain good posture and try to use a supportive pillow when you are sleeping. These measures will help prevent stiffness in the neck.

Your doctor may prescribe you with painkillers, which will help relieve your pain whilst you are recovering. Taking a painkiller such as paracetamol regularly throughout your recovery is thought to be more effective than taking it only when you are in pain but you should get advice from your doctor. If your pain is more severe, your doctor may prescribe a stronger painkiller, such as codeine. Ibuprofen can also assist in relieving pain by reducing inflammation.

For more serious whiplash injuries, your doctor may suggest that you try physiotherapy. Physiotherapy can help you to regain a full range of movement, through techniques such as massage and manipulation. A physiotherapist is also likely to give you exercises to do at home. It is important that you follow their instructions. If you don’t do your exercises, this is likely to slow your recovery. Similarly, if you push yourself too hard, you may cause further injury.

Acute and chronic whiplash are treated in a similar way. Severe pain at the time of injury is often an indication of chronic whiplash so your doctor can plan your treatment accordingly.  Because the pain is more long-term for chronic whiplash, you will probably need to construct a treatment plan with your doctor based on your symptoms. Any other injuries that occurred at the same time as your whiplash injury will also need to be taken into account in your treatment plan.

When the symptoms of whiplash persist for more than a couple months, this can sometimes cause anxiety and depression. Staying positive and focusing on long-term objectives can actually assist your whiplash recovery. A study at the Institute of Environmental Medicine at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm in 2005 found that victim expectations were an important factor in whiplash recovery. They compared participants’ expectations after injury with their actual progress six months on. Even after adjusting for physical symptoms and other factors, those who initially felt that they wouldn’t make a full recovery were more than four time as likely to be in the group of ‘more disabled’ participants six months later than those who were more positive about their chances of recovery.

If you do suffer from anxiety or depression during your recovery, you should speak to your doctor, who will discuss treatment with you.