What is Whiplash Injury?
When the head is abruptly moved or jerked in a backward or forward motion, the neck often suffers pain known as whiplash. While the condition is temporary, it does cause discomfort, lack of motion and pain. Whiplash can occur after a car accident, sports injury, a blow to the head or when one has fallen from a bicycle or horse.
The injury is believed to cause a sudden twisting of the spine. The ligament known as the anterior longitudinal ligament is either torn or stretched when the head is snapped in the motion that causes the whiplash.
Many people experience aching in the neck, back or shoulders, headaches and a feeling of tingling in pricking in the arms and legs. Usually, the pain is not felt until 24 hours or more after an accident.A person may complain of blurred vision and the inability to sleep or the feeling of fatigue.
Symptoms of Whiplash
People who experience whiplash suffer from some common symptoms. These include swelling in the neck, a feeling of tenderness in the neck, difficult moving the head and neck, pain that shoots from the neck into the shoulder or arm, and muscle spasms. The condition usually stays in the are of the neck, shoulder and back, but may be felt in the mid-back or spine. The feeling of pins and needles can be felt in the arms and legs.
Directly after an accident a person may feel dizzy, or have pain in the arms or neck and shoulder pain. Some people report a loss of feeling in the arms of legs. While it might take a day or more to feel all of the effects of whiplash, if the previously mention symptoms are felt, a person should seek medical attention.
A physician will place a cervical collar around the patient’s neck to prevent further injury. A doctor can diagnose whiplash, but usually will do an X-ray to make sure there have been no fractures of the bones or permanent injury to the spinal cord.
Treating and Preventing
The doctor may give a CT scan, or MRI, and if the results are normal, may simply suggest ice packs and a pain reliever for the whiplash. Other than this, the patient may find relief from rest, ice and heat therapy and neck massages. There are also exercises that will help the neck to heal without causing further injury. If the pain and injury are sever enough, the doctor might suggest physical therapy or rehabilitation with a specialist.
Typically, whiplash clears up in a few weeks, and the patient is back to normal. Most people feel better after a few days, but other people continue to experience severe pain. People who suffer from chronic pain after the injury may have experience changes to the cerebral blood flow. Some people still experience symptoms of whiplash after a couple of months of the injury. This accounts form less than half of all people get whiplash. Less than 20 percent will have symptoms that continue years later.
With intolerable pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribe to ease the pain. Some patients continue to wear the cervical collar for a couple of days, or even weeks, but it’s not recommended for wearing longer than 72 hours as this limits recovery and movement.
The condition may be prevented by wearing the seat belt. Also, the driver should adjust the headrest of the seat so it is comfortable for driving. Many car manufacturers such as Volvo, Saab, Mercedes Benz, Jaguar and Toyota have implemented whiplash protection systems or devices in their cars to lessen the risk for whiplash, but they are not proven to keep whiplash from occurring.