What is Whiplash?
Whiplash describes a situation where your head moves quickly backward and forwards, at the same time that it rotates. For example, if you are in a car accident where your body jerks back while your head is moving forward at the same time. The more extreme your back-and-forth or side-to-side movements are, the more likely you will have a spinal injury. Whiplash can cause a variety of symptoms, including:
Whiplash may also be called a hyperextension or hyperflexion injury.
What Causes Whiplash?
There is no single cause for whiplash injuries. They may be caused by:
Shocks of the head, lower neck, upper spine, or mid-back can generate abnormal forces on your neck. The irregular forces cause the soft tissues of your neck to stretch too far or too suddenly, creating excessive movement that may result in damage. These muscles and ligaments are extremely strong, but they aren't designed to suddenly absorb a large amount of force. In fact, the damage from motor vehicle crashes is typically to these soft tissues rather than your bones or discs.
Whiplash may also be caused by physical trauma from other types of accidents such as falls and sports injuries.
What Are the Symptoms?
- Neck pain
- Neck stiffness
- Shoulder pain
- Low back pain
- Pain in your arm or hand
- Numbness in your arm or hand
Severe whiplash can also lead to:
- Ringing in your ears
- Blurred vision
- Concentration or memory problems
It is important for people who have had an accident that has caused them whiplash pain to seek medical attention so they can prevent further damage, arthritis or other problems down the road.
The sooner you get help, the more likely you are to recover completely.
People who think they may have a whiplash injury never should just 'wait it out'. Whiplash can cause serious problems, including cervical disc injuries that may require surgery.
What Can I Do Right Now?
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms after an accident or other trauma, seek immediate medical attention. Don't put off having your condition checked by a doctor because you don't have insurance or money for treatment. Tell your doctor about your pain so they know what kind of damage might have been caused by your neck being stretched too far or moved in ways it wasn't designed to move. Your doctor will do a thorough physical exam and may order tests to determine what kind of damage has been done.
They may prescribe medications for temporary pain relief. They may also recommend or provide other treatments, such as:
People who have chronic neck pain often benefit from osteopathy, physical therapy, massage therapy, and acupuncture. Successful treatment depends on the severity of your injury, so if you can't move normally, don't expect to recover fully when you are trying to heal yourself. You should always seek proper medical attention in cases that involve whiplash injuries. Early detection is key when dealing with any kind of soft-tissue damage in your neck because it allows doctors to repair the tissues before they become too damaged, reducing the risk for subsequent health problems or arthritis in later life. The earlier you can get help, the greater your chances are of complete recovery.