You've probably heard about whiplash injuries due to car accidents, but did you know you could get whiplash on amusement park rides? If you're planning on going to an amusement park this summer, you'll want to keep these preventative tips in mind; additionally, you'll want to know how to act in case you do experience whiplash.
How Do Rides Cause Whiplash, and What Does It Feel Like?
Any ride you go on can cause whiplash—even the kiddie ones. All you need is an unexpected, quick change in motion, and you've got a recipe for whiplash. Roller coasters are often culprits because riders may not know how to handle the jarring gravitational forces of loops and corkscrews.
Thankfully, engineering advances have made roller coaster rides much smoother compared to their older counterparts. However, one small jolt can still cause damage to the soft tissues in your neck. Some whiplash is not readily apparent, and may actually present itself the next day. While sore neck muscles are an obvious symptom of whiplash, be on the watch for other symptoms, like:
Back and shoulder pain
Numbness or tingling running down your neck, arms, or back
Poor sleep and fatigue
Memory or concentration issues
If you have an intense headaches that won't go away, you should visit a doctor or chiropractor ASAP. Webmd.com says that while headaches are a symptom of whiplash, they can also be a symptom of a subdural hematoma.
How Can You Prevent It?
If you have a history or teeth-grinding or clenching, you may want to wear a mouthguard—especially on rickety old roller coasters. A mouthguard isn't just a protector from concussions or chipped teeth -- it acts as a shock absorber for the lower half of your face. That means if your head does snap back from whiplash, it will lessen the force on the muscles and bones in your face.
Another way to prevent whiplash is to drink tons of water. Because you'll be walking around the park all day and in the summer heat, it's easy to get dehydrated. However, staying hydrated will also keep the inter-vertebral discs in your back and neck hydrated. When these discs are hydrated and functioning at optimum levels, they'll be able to disperse pressure or gravitational forces more evenly. While you are standing in line, do a little stretching to loosen up any tight muscles. When you get on a ride you'll be less likely to tense up.
When you get on a coaster, make sure you you keep your neck aligned with your spine and press back into the head-rest if there is one. If you continue to press your body back during the ride, your neck won't have a chance to snap back. However, if this same park also has a water rides, you may need to do the opposite action: tuck your chin. Since water rides are often slides or half pipe variations, you ride in tubes without any back support. Since you have nothing to press your head against, your head could be whipped back if you aren't consciously tucking your chin.
Lastly, if you're a thrill-seeker, you may want to adjust your habits. If you throw up your arms, you won't be able to brace yourself. If you're the opposite and close your eyes to ease any fears, know that that can actually be detrimental as well. ThemeParkInsider.com says that you shouldn't close your eyes to prepare yourself. Your eyes will tell your body what's coming next on the track ahead, thus allowing your body to subconsciously make any adjustments it needs to to avoid whiplash.
When in doubt about a ride's safety, peruse through its warnings, tips, and qualifications before you get in line. If you've experienced whiplash and it isn't healing on its own, you may need to see a chiropractor like those at the Contino Chiropractic Center to mobilize the spine or to work out any injuries in your muscles.