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How a Pain Management Doctor Can Help You After a Whiplash Injury

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Car accidents can throw your life into turmoil. Even a minor fender bender can result in expensive car repairs and painful injuries. If you were in a crash and now suffer from whiplash, you might benefit from treatments provided by pain management doctors. Whether your injury is mild, severe, or somewhere in-between, seeing pain management specialists can provide peace of mind and relief from pain. Accident Help Zone has resources that might help you find a doctor and advocates that can help you recover damages if your accident resulted from another person’s negligence.

Accidents that Result in Whiplash

More than 90,000 motor vehicle accidents resulted in personal injury in New York in 2020. Whiplash injuries may result in any type of accident but commonly occur in rear-end collisions. These accidents often happen due to a distracted driver and when a vehicle follows you too closely. In low-impact collisions, the lower cervical spine can sustain damage, often leading to a herniated disc. Minor leg injuries can also occur, leading to knee pain or other joint issues.

Pain Management Specialist

However, high-speed accidents typically involve the head and neck, snapping to the front and whipping back forcefully. The rapid motion often results in whiplash trauma.

The consequences of this trauma may encompass:

  • Damaged soft tissue, which causes muscle spasms that become chronic
  • Misaligned vertebrae, which results in pain and limited motion
  • Abnormal cervical spine alignment, which can lead to long-term health issues

Swollen, irritated soft tissue and misaligned joints might result in muscle spasms and chronic neurological issues. Pain specialists in New York and New Jersey can help you through the healing process and get you back to a pain-free life.

Whiplash Signs and Symptoms

The violent front-to-back motions of the head and neck that happen during a car crash can cause the ligaments in your neck to stretch too far.

You may not see signs of whiplash immediately, but it may develop in the days and weeks following the accident. Symptoms include:

  • Headaches that start at the base of the skull
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle spasms
  • Depression
  • Limited range of motion in the neck

Whiplash Injury Pain Management Doctor

Whiplash has a broad range of symptoms that can include pain or tenderness in the upper back, arms or shoulder, and tingling or numbness in the arms. Ringing in the ears, sleep disturbances, problems with remembering details, and difficulty concentrating could also be signs of whiplash. Several factors affect the degree of your injury, such as:

  • Size and gender of the patient
  • Position of the headrest
  • The angle of the seatback
  • Road condition
  • Vehicles involved
  • Speed
  • Crash absorption
  • Type and angle of the collision

The term whiplash describes an injury but is not a formal medical condition. Disorders associated with the term range from fractured vertebrae and neck sprains to spinal cord contusions. The severity and precise location of the injury determine the best course of action for recovery and function restoration.

When to See a Pain Management Doctor

Going to a doctor right away is critical if you are in a rear-end crash or another type of car accident. Most pain management doctors will first conduct an examination to check for broken bones, sprains, and strains. Tingling, numbness, or weakness in the hands or arms might indicate several types of injuries, including spinal nerve damage. Healthcare providers often take X-rays or MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) of patients after a car crash. Although these tests cannot show whiplash injuries, they help pain doctors more thoroughly evaluate your condition.

New York Whiplash Doctor

Minor pain and discomfort after an accident are common. Your physician might recommend whiplash treatment that includes:

  • Rest – Often recommended for a day or two after an injury. However, too much bed rest might delay recovery.
  • Heat or cold – Hot or cold compresses applied to the neck for 15 minutes every few hours may reduce pain and discomfort.
  • Neck Brace – Also known as a cervical collar, it can support your neck and allow healing of the soft tissue.
  • Over-the-counter pain medication – Pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen products can help minimize mild to moderate pain from a whiplash injury.
  • Prescription drugs – If over-the-counter pain medicine cannot ease the pain, your provider may prescribe an antidepressant, which might relieve nerve pain.
  • Muscle relaxants – For short-term use. These drugs can soothe pain and loosen tight muscles. They can also help you restore normal sleep patterns if the pain prevents you from resting at night.
  • Neck exercises – Stretching and movement exercises can help you restore the normal range of motion in your neck. Your physical therapist may recommend doing these at home.
  • Physical therapy – Ongoing pain from a whiplash injury may require physical therapy to strengthen muscles, improve posture and restore range of motion.

Taking it easy, avoiding rigorous activity, and taking anti-inflammatory medication in the days following your crash can help your injuries heal.

A pain management doctor often works in conjunction with a primary care physician. He focuses on pain as a symptom of the disease and managing pain disorders. If the pain of a whiplash injury increases or the injury does not heal within a few weeks, your doctor may refer you to a pain management specialist.

Physical Therapy for Whiplash Injuries

Neck pain after a collision can be persistent and debilitating. While medications and immobilization may help reduce the pain, you may need other interventional pain management to help strengthen your neck and shoulders. Whiplash describes how the injury happened, not how it presents. Recovering a full range of motion after soft-tissue-based injuries can take months.

Whiplash Injury Physical Therapist

Acute whiplash symptoms typically last two to three months. Healthcare professionals often consider it chronic if it lasts more than 12 weeks. Chronic pain is often a sign that an injury did not heal correctly rather than resulting from inflammation. Physical therapists may use active or passive treatments.

Passive Whiplash Treatment Options

If you experience acute pain from whiplash, your physical therapist may begin with passive treatments. The goal is to help your muscles relax. Treatments frequently include:

  • Acupuncture – An acupuncturist strategically places needles along the spine and pain referral points. This can help eliminate or reduce symptoms related to whiplash and encourage healing.
  • Chiropractic treatments – Chiropractors utilize various spinal manipulation techniques for pain management, like sensorimotor and stabilization exercises.
  • Deep tissue massage – The physical therapist uses friction and direct pressure to release the tension in your muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Hot and cold therapies – Heat therapy directs more blood to the target area, which delivers more oxygen and nutrients. Cold therapy slows circulation, reducing muscle spasms, pain, and inflammation. Your physical therapist may alternate between the two.
  • Osteopathic Manipulation Treatment – Practitioners use this hands-on approach to musculoskeletal disorders for correction of structural conditions and to relieve pain.
  • Ultrasound – Sending sound waves into the muscle tissue creates heat that improves blood circulation. It may help alleviate cramping, stiffness, swelling, and muscle spasms.

A pain management doctor determines the type of treatments best meet your needs, whether you suffer from unexpected chronic headache, back pain or tingling and numbness in the arms and hands. As your body adjusts to the pain and begins healing, he may introduce active treatments to your PT.

Active Whiplash Treatment Options

A physical therapist assesses your condition and develops a personalized treatment plan that fits your needs.

Whiplash Injury Pain Management Specialist

Depending on the severity of your injury, your regimen may include exercises such as:

  • Chin tucks
  • Neck rotations
  • Neck flex and extension
  • Neck isometrics
  • Brugger’s stretch

A pain management specialist may develop a plan that utilizes several treatment types to help you recover fully from the crash. Some treatments reduce pain while others help you manage it.

How a Physical Therapy Program Can Help

Physical therapy provides non-surgical treatments for a broad range of issues. It is a conservative approach to healing injuries, restoring movement, and preventing additional damage. A physical therapist can treat spine-related problems, including whiplash and degenerative disc disease.

A pain management specialist has skills and training specifically for rehabilitation. They understand the difference between injuries and work closely with your physician. Your body type, alignments, and habits all contribute to the best approach to the healing process. Whiplash affects different people in similar but different ways. What worked for your neighbor or sibling may not be the right program for you.

Advanced Whiplash Treatment Options

Healthcare professionals often use injections to treat pain for severe whiplash injuries. Your pain management doctor may combine them with neck exercises and physical therapy for best results. Injections provide pain relief so that you can focus on healing from the injury.

Selective Nerve Root Block

Your doctor may locate the spinal nerve root after administering a local anesthetic in the cervical spine. The goals might include healing injured nerves, improving blood flow and reducing neural system dysfunction. 

Trigger Point Injections

Trigger points are tender muscles that, when touched, send pain radiating to other areas of the body.  They often feel like bands or knots that you cannot work out. These points may remain localized in the neck or shoulders or occur throughout the body. A pain management specialist often injects anti-inflammatory medications into these trigger points for pain reduction.

An injection typically contains saline solution, dextrose, a local anesthetic and a corticosteroid.

  • The saline and dextrose help break up the knots and muscle spasms.
  • The anesthetics increase blood flow and eliminate the inflammatory substances that build up when the muscles spasm.
  • The corticosteroid blocks the inflammation that sensitizes nerve endings and receptors.

Removing the pain allows you to focus on rehabilitation.

Cervical Epidural

This is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure. A cervical facet lies near blood vessels and nerves within the cervical spine. When inflamed, it can make moving your neck pain. A fluoroscope can confirm the location of the damaged facet joints. After offering mild sedation and a local anesthetic, the pain management doctor injects a steroid into the joint.

The medication may help relieve pain by reducing nerve inflammation. As a result, you may tolerate physical therapy sessions and routine movement more easily.

Occipital Nerve Blocks

The greater and lesser occipital nerves supply sensation to the top of the head and back of the scalp. You may experience eye pain when these nerves become irritated. A pain management specialist uses an occipital nerve block for delivering pain-relieving medication near the nerve. The injection may combine an anesthetic and steroid for the most effective results.

The effects of injections vary from one patient to another; some may last for months, others for days or weeks.

Managing Chronic Whiplash Pain Issues

By looking at your medical history and conducting an exam, a chiropractor may detect factors that determine if you are more susceptible to chronic pain from whiplash. If your persistent neck or symptoms last more than three months or if pain levels increase, aggressive preventative measures or surgery may be necessary. The type of surgery depends on the location of the cervical spine injury. Factors that indicate higher susceptibility to chronic whiplash pain include:

  • Age
  • History of headaches
  • Severe headache and neck pain immediately following the crash
  • Weakness or numbness in the arms after the trauma

Recovering from whiplash surgery takes time. A pain management specialist may work with you from the days following the crash and throughout the recovery process.

The Best Pain Management Doctors in New York, NY

It’s essential to realize that even collisions involving speeds as low as 10 miles per hour can result in whiplash injuries. The body releases a variety of stress hormones during a traumatic event. Norepinephrine, cortisol, and adrenaline help your mind and body deal with the pain and stress of the situation, and it takes time for the chemicals to return to resting levels. As a result, signs of whiplash may not become evident for days, weeks, or months after the crash.

A pain management doctor in New York and New Jersey can help identify the cause of your discomfort and develop a treatment plan for your recovery. Visit Accident Help Zone to learn more about whiplash treatments and find a doctor near you. If your crash resulted from someone else’s negligence, you might have grounds for a claim that can help you pay for hospital bills and related medical expenses. Doctors listed in our directory accept no-fault, PIP (Personal Injury Protection), workers’ compensation, and other insurance plans.