Whiplash

Whiplash occurs when the muscles, vertebrae, and nerves of the neck undergo strain. This usually occurs when the head is “whipped” forward and backward with force that pushes the ligaments of the neck beyond their natural limit. The severity of each case completely depends on how hard the neck was impacted.

CAUSES

The most common cause of all whiplash cases is rear-end car collision. Impact from the back of a car can force a passenger’s head forward and make it whip backward beyond the natural range of motion. Whiplash can result from any type of trauma that replicates this motion, including falls or roller coaster rides.

SYMPTOMS

Whiplash symptoms may begin to manifest within 24 hours after an accident. They range in severity in each case and include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Headaches, most commonly at the base of the skull
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue

More severe cases of whiplash may even cause symptoms, such as:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability

It is especially important to see a doctor if your case of whiplash causes:

  • Pain in the shoulders and arms
  • Pain when moving your head
  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness in the arms

DIAGNOSIS

Doctors may use multiple tests, such as X-rays and CT scans, to rule out any possibilities of sprains or fractures in the neck that could cause the same symptoms; and diagnose the pain as whiplash.

TREATMENT

With the help of some conservative treatment, patients do not usually experience pain from whiplash for more the 2-3 months. The most effective methods of treating whiplash and preventing it in the future include:

  • Physical therapy, which will strengthen neck muscles, relieve strain and increase blood flow.
  • Acupuncture, which will relieve pain in certain areas with needle insertion.
  • Medical massage, which will relax spasms and increase blood flow to ligaments.

Some mild medications are usually helpful in dealing with whiplash as well. The most effective are:

  • Muscle relaxants to reduce spasms in the neck
  • Injection of lidocaine, a local anesthetic that will help eliminate pain and spasms

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