Whiplash is a sudden sharp motion or hyperextension (over-extension) injury to the neck, often the result of being struck from behind, as by a fast moving vehicle in a car accident.. The injury often affects the bone, muscles, nerves and tendons of the neck.
- Pain or stiffness in the neck, jaw, shoulders or arms
- Loss of feeling in an arm or hand
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe cases of whiplash may also cause vision disturbance, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and other signs of nerve irritation
- Decreased muscle mass
- Head injury or other traumatic injury such as severe chest trauma
- Not wearing seatbelt when driving
- Old age
- Playing contact ssports like football, hockey or wrestling
The treatment for whiplash depends on the severity of the injury. Severe neck injuries associated with bone or spinal cord damage may require surgical intervention. Less severe injuries are often limited to soft tissue injuries (muscles, ligaments, tendons) and treatment is directed at symptom relief.
- Pain medications (over-the-counter or prescription)
- Narcotic pain medication may be necessary with severe whiplash
It is important to begin rehabilitation immediately to prevent future pain. If adequate treatment and rest is not taken until the injury is fully healed it can grow into a chronic pain.
In most clinical cases, cervical collars are recommended until the pain ceases and the best way of recovery is to include an active rehabilitation program that includes physical therapy exercises and postural modifications. When beginning a rehabilitation regimen, it’s important to begin with slow movements which include cervical rotation until pain threshold three to five times per day, flexion and extension of the shoulder joint by moving the arms up and down two to three times, and combining shoulder raises while inhaling and releasing the shoulder raise while exhaling.These exercises should be done every day until pain starts to dissipate.
Prevention is the most effective way to avoid whiplash.
- Always using seatbelts and drive motor vehicles with airbags. Proper adjustment of the car seat headrest can also help keep the neck from snapping backwards.
- Always use the proper safety equipment when participating in sports.
- Follow amusement park or carnival safety instructions on high-velocity rides, such as roller coasters.
- Report suspected child abuse to authorities.
- Monitor children’s activities to prevent falls or serious injuries.