Whiplash is a common injury, affecting about 2 million individuals in the United States annually. Ordinarily a consequence of an automobile accident, whiplash may also result from falling, participating in sports, or from other causes, including being shaken or hit.
Whiplash is the common term for a neck sprain or strain resulting from hyperextension (see picture below) and hyperflexion (see image below). It often doesn’t cause symptoms that are immediate: in fact, it could grow over time. Since whiplash may cause long lasting effects on the spinal column, it is essential to determine your doctor for those who have been injured, even in the event you don’t have pain immediately later.
The cervical spine (neck) is a complex structure composed of vertebrae (spinal bones), intervertebral discs (act as shock absorbers), muscles, ligaments, and nerves. The neck is is flexible and may transfer it different ways (nod, rotate) while supporting the entire weight of the head. However, that flexibility can make the neck exposed to injury. Within a whiplash event, your neck goes quickly and powerfully forward and backward. Pain can continue even following the injury itself has recovered.
Whiplash can lead to possibly high medical expenses, reduced productivity, and temporary impairment.
Symptoms of Whiplash
The primary complaint of a person who has whiplash is neck and upper back pain. Other symptoms may include:
- Pain in the arm and shoulder that may radiate down into the hand(s).
- Paresthesias (like numbness or tingling) and weakness that will extend into the hand(s).
You might even experience dizziness, nausea, ringing in the ears, fatigue, jaw pain, or blurred vision.
Causes of Whiplash
The most common reason for whiplash is an automobile accident when the man’s vehicle (typically stopped) is rear-ended by another car or truck. As a consequence of the impact, the cervical back’s lower vertebrae of the neck are forced into a position that is hyperextended, while the upper vertebrae are bend, resulting in an unusual S shaped curve. This chain of events often damages the soft tissues (ligaments, tendons, muscles) of the neck.
Your doctor carefully reviews your medical history and performs a physical and neurological examination. Since xrays don’t reveal injuries to soft tissues, a CT (computerized tomography) scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may be performed.
What are the Treatments for Whiplash?
Treatment depends upon degree and the severity of the whiplash, and thought is provided to general health and your age. Initial treatment may include:
- Short-term rest (a day or two)
- Ice, for two* or the very first day; then alternative heat and ice
- Gentle range-of-motion exercises
- Anti inflammatory medications (over the counter or prescription)
- Muscle relaxants
*When using ice, make sure that the cold source is wrapped in a towel to protect the skin place. Don’t apply ice.
If your pain does not go away within a fair period of time, or when it is serious, your physician may recommend trigger point injections, physical therapy, chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, and/or use of a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device.
Soft collars, although once widely used for whiplash, are not used so frequently since the muscles can be weakened by immobilizing the neck to get a long time and delay healing.
Operation is seldom warranted by whiplash. If your pain persists even once you have gotten nonsurgical treatment, surgery may be recommended by your healthcare provider, depending on how severe the harm is and what constructions have been injured. It’s important to understand that risks are consistently carried by surgery. Therefore, you need to truly have a comprehensive talk with your doctor.
The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic and spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss options on the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
By Dr. Alex Jimenez
Additional Topics: Neck Pain and Auto Injury
After being involved in an automobile accident, the sheer force of the impact can often cause whiplash, a common type of neck injury resulting from the sudden, back-and-forth motion of the head against the body due to a car wreck, or other incident. Because of this, many of the complex structures found within the neck, including the spine, ligaments and muscles, can be stretched beyond their normal range, causing injury and painful symptoms.
The information herein on "Whiplash: A Common Impact Neck Injury" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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