I can’t tell you how many people have I’ve talked to who’ve been in an accident and say, “thank goodness I didn’t get hurt. My neck’s a little sore, but it’s only whiplash.”
Granted, I agree that it’s a wonderful thing to be able to walk away from a car wreck. Far better that than death, or the other devastating, traumatic things that can happen in a wreck. But, “whiplash,” “soft-tissue injuries” or myofascial pain is not a trivial matter. I know from personal experience.
When I was 19, the car I was driving got smashed into from behind while I was stopped, waiting to take a left turn. Right after the wreck, I was shocked. “What just happened?” And then, I felt a rush of adrenaline, like I would right before a race: my breath came faster, I was a little shaky and I was ready to run a marathon. Did I hurt? Not that I remember, in fact, I know I told the ambulance I didn’t need a ride.
Then, over the next few days, my neck became more and more sore. So, I finally went in to see the doctor, who basically told me it was just “whiplash” and I could take anti-inflammatories and pain pills.
I’ve always been a “cowboy up” person. I thought I’d just push through. At 19, I’d been able to push through everything I’d faced up to that point, so I believed that I’d just heal, no problem. But, the ache lingered and the soreness continued, despite attending physical therapy appointments for several years and religiously doing my physical therapy exercises.
I’ve always been a “cowboy up” person. I thought I’d just push through…It took me almost three years to realize that my neck was never going to be the same again.
After a few years, the x-rays and MRIs revealed only a bone spur, but my problems continued … It took me almost three years to realize that my neck was never going to be the same again. It took me even longer – probably even five years – to finally realize that my neck was going to dictate a lot of things I couldn’t do. And dictate a lot of things that I just had to do.
Although I identified myself as a swimmer – having been a competitive swimmer throughout my youth and teen years – I finally concluded that I just can’t swim. I gave up my lifelong dream of becoming a triathlete. I can no longer risk jarring my neck in activities like downhill skiing, cliff-jumping, or sledding. I had to change the way I did lots of other things, like reading books (cookbook stand), shoveling (lots and lots of breaks), gardening (lots and lots of breaks), computer work (lots and lots of breaks), and on and on.
And those things I just have to do? Physical therapy exercises and stretches, every day.
I readily admit that I am grateful I wasn’t killed in my auto accident; I’m grateful I didn’t lose a limb and am not disfigured. But, I have never been the same since that summer afternoon, even though I just sustained “whiplash.”