Whiplash is a familiar term most often used to describe neck injuries that occur in rear-end car crashes. The impact of the crash jerks the head violently backward and forward in a movement similar to cracking a whip, and can damage ligaments and muscles in the neck. Any event that over-extends and damages the neck in this manner is referred to as whiplash.
What are the common symptoms of whiplash?
Common symptoms of whiplash can be severe or mild, depending upon the intensity or angle of the impact, and the relative ability of your neck muscles and ligaments to withstand the violent strain. Pain may be immediate, developing within 24 hours after the initial injury, then abate in just a few weeks.
Symptoms may include stiffness and pain in the neck and shoulders, dizziness, headaches most often located at the base of the skull, fatigue, and blurred vision. Sometimes patients also experience memory problems, a ringing in their ears, irritability, problems concentrating, and difficulty sleeping. In some cases, chronic pain develops a while after the initial injury.
What is the cause of whiplash?
A rear-and automobile accident often jerks the head backward and forward violently, overextending neck muscles and ligaments way beyond their normal range of motion; resulting damages are referred to as whiplash. Physical abuse can create whiplash and is typical of shaken-baby syndrome.
When should I see a chiropractor or pain management doctor in Orange County if I think I have whiplash?
Contact your Orange County pain clinic doctor immediately if moving your head becomes painful, the pain spreads from your neck into your shoulders or your arms, or you experience tingling, numbness, or weakness in your arms. Getting tackled in a football game as well as comparable sports collisions can also result in whiplash.
Are there risk factors which contribute to the likelihood of experiencing whiplash?
Because women’s necks are usually not as strong as men’s, they are more apt to experience whiplash.
How is whiplash diagnosed?
Imaging tests are an important part of reaching an accurate whiplash diagnosis. These include: X-rays to help eliminate other problems such as arthritis, dislocations, or spinal fractures; computerized tomography (CT) a compilation of X-rays to produce detailed images of your soft tissues and bone; and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to help detect injuries to soft tissues like nerve roots or the spinal cord.
How is whiplash treated?
In most cases initial treatment for whiplash includes over-the-counter pain medication and ice packs applied to the affected area. When pain persists, stronger prescription medications and physical therapy are often recommended. Injections of lidocaine will numb muscles in the affected area and can reduce muscle spasms which often accompany whiplash. Muscle relaxants also help reduce these spasms but because this type of medication often makes patients drowsy, their use is restricted to bedtime.
Physical therapy is central to whiplash treatment and may include: myofascial release to relax contracted muscles, increase circulation and stimulate your muscles’ stretch reflex; heat and ice therapy; and ultrasound. Once your pain has been sufficiently relieved, stretching and strengthening exercises guided by your physical therapist can help minimize your symptoms and protect your neck from future injury.
The use of foam cervical (neck) collars is no longer routinely recommended. Now it is generally accepted that keeping the neck from moving over a prolonged period of time can reduce the mass and strength of your muscles, thereby impairing your recovery. Foam collars may be helpful if worn briefly during the first couple of days following your initial injury. They also can be useful in early treatment to help patients sleep.
Are alternative therapies effective in treating whiplash?
The use of alternative therapies to treat whiplash is more prevalent each year. Chiropractic care, acupuncture, and massage have proven successful in many instances.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) directs mild electrical currents to the affected area which may interfere with pain signals to the brain or release endorphins, our natural painkillers.
What can I do to manage my whiplash?
Over-the-counter pain medications are helpful in managing mild or moderate pain. Hot or cold compresses applied to the neck or upper back are also recommended as self-help treatments. Once your pain becomes manageable, your doctor will probably suggest exercises to gently stretch your neck so that you can restore its range of motion.