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Understanding What Is Whiplash

Understanding Whiplash Injury

Whiplash injury is a type of neck injury that develops as a result of sudden acceleration-deceleration force that causes rapid backward and forward movement of the neck and head. The soft neck tissues and bone structures become overly stretched and damaged.

neck pain

Whiplash is not a life-threatening condition, but victims develop discomfort and sometimes, partial disability. The symptoms take several hours or days to manifest and may linger for as long as three months.

How Can You Get Whiplash?

The injury often occurs during a motor vehicle accident where a person in a stationary vehicle is hit by another car from behind. The rear impact causes the neck and the head to hyper-extend backwards as the seat propels that individual’s torso forward. The neck and head are then thrown in a hyper-flexed position. Studies show that the rear impact forces the lower cervical vertebrae into a hyper-extended position while the upper cervical vertebrae is hyper-flexed. An abnormal S-shape develops on the cervical spine, which can damage the soft tissues along with the muscles, ligaments and facet capsules. Other causes of a whiplash injury include:

  • Sporting activities like football, cycling, riding, diving, skiing, snowboarding and horseback riding
  • Break-dancing or dancing from the ballroom
  • Slipping, tripping or falling
  • Theme park rides also trigger a whiplash

What Does Whiplash do to Your Body?

The most common symptoms are stiffness, neck pain and aches in the surrounding parts. Some victims also develop muscle spasms, headaches and difficulty when moving the head. Other patients develop whiplash-associated disorders in the form of vision problems, dizziness, problems with memory, difficulty in talking, chewing or swallowing and drastic emotional changes. If left untreated, the symptoms increase stress, fatigue and feelings of social isolation.

How Does Whiplash Feel?

The doctor examines the patient to determine the extent of the injury. Depending on the symptoms experienced, the doctor may place a collar on the neck to enhance support or perform an x-ray to identify severe injuries. If the doctor is concerned about soft tissue injuries, he may prescribe an MRI scan to determine other injuries that may have occurred on the soft tissues of the neck, causing instability.

What is the Best Treatment for Whiplash?

Chiropractic treatment is the most common form of treatment for patients who have whiplash injuries. Chiropractors employ a range of treatments, including spinal manipulation, muscle relaxation, exercise, and changes in lifestyle, depending on the extent of neck pain. Patients opt for this kind of treatment as it is less invasive and helps the bones and muscles to heal fast. Doctors may also prescribe simple painkillers like Asprin or Tylen, but in more severe injuries, the patient may require muscle relaxants and prescription painkillers. Alternative remedies include acupuncture, massage and electric nerve stimulation.