Whiplash - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Whiplash is a neck injury due to rapid, forceful, back and forth movement of the neck like cracking of a whip. It occurs when a person moves their head backward and forward suddenly with great force. Whiplash most commonly occurs with rear-end car collisions. However, it can also occur due to physical abuse, amusement park rides, and sports injuries. Whiplash can also be called neck sprain or strain. Medications and exercise can help recover from it in a few weeks. It is a mild condition but can cause chronic pain and discomfort. 


Activities that can cause whiplash are;


  • Falls in which the head violently jerks backward

  • Blows to the head with a heavy object

  • Car accidents

  • Physical abuse, such as falling down or being punched 

  • Playing sports such as football, boxing, and karate

  • Horseback riding

  • Cycling accidents


Symptoms 


Symptoms of whiplash can occur after 24 hours of injury. However, sometimes it may take several days to weeks. Whiplash can cause the following signs and symptoms;


  • Dizziness

  • Blurred vision

  • Constant weariness

  • Neck pain 

  • Neck stiffness

  • Headaches- specifically at the base of the skull


Other symptoms associated with whiplash that are less common are;


  • inability to sleep well

  • irritability

  • problems with concentration 

  • problems with memory

  • ringing in the ears

  • chronic pain in the neck, shoulders, or head



Complications 


Mostly the pain due to whiplash gets better over time and does not have any lasting effects. But in some people, the pain can last for a few days to weeks. It can cause symptoms like;


  • Severe neck pain

  • More-limited range of motion

  • Pain that spread to the arms


The following factors can make whiplash worse for you;


  • If you have had a whiplash injury before 

  • Being older-aged

  • A high-speed injury 

  • Having a pre-existing neck pain or back pain


Treatment 


The treatment for whiplash is aimed to;


  • Lower pain 

  • Restore the normal range of motion of the neck 

  • Get back to normal day to day activities


For pain management, your healthcare provider may prescribe;


  • Rest for one to two days

  • Applying heat or cold pack for at least 15 minutes every three hours

  • Over the counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or naproxen

  • Antidepressant medications to soothe nerves

  • Muscle relaxants for a short time to relieve muscle spasm and pain

  • Lidocaine injection- an anesthetic to lower pain


To restore the normal range of motion of the neck, your healthcare provider may prescribe exercise that helps get rid of muscle strain and spasm. It may include;


  • Bending your neck toward your chest

  • Rolling your shoulders

  • Rotating your neck in both directions

  • Tilting your head side to side



To get you back to normal day-to-day activities, your healthcare provider may prescribe physical therapy that can help improve posture, strengthen your muscles and restore normal movement. In some cases, mild electrical current is used transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). The number of physical therapy sessions varies according to the severity of the injury and person to person. 


Foam collars- can help strengthen the neck by providing support. 



Conclusion 


Whiplash is a neck injury due to rapid, forceful, back and forth movement of the neck like cracking of a whip. It occurs when a person moves their head backward and forward suddenly with great force. Whiplash is not a serious condition, but it can be painful. 

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