FAQ’s on Whiplash
What is whiplash and who may suffer from it?
Whiplash is most often associated with automobile accidents where the victim is struck from the rear. Whiplash occurs when the head makes a sudden and violent jerking motion which may move the muscles and ligaments of the neck beyond their normal range of motion. You don’t have to be in an automobile accident to get whiplash however, other activities can result in whiplash if a person is not careful.
Some forms of dancing involve rapid jerking motions of the head. This can result in a mild whiplash. Contact sports such as football can result in whiplash and physical abuse, especially shaking small children, can also result in whiplash. Women are more likely to suffer whiplash injuries than men due to the fact that their necks are not as muscular.
What are the symptoms of whiplash?
Symptoms of whiplash may take up to 24 hours to develop after the accident has occurred. The symptoms include pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulder area. Another symptom of whiplash is headache, specifically at the base of the skull or radiating from the base of the skull up throughout the entire head. A person suffering from a whiplash injury may also experience blurred vision, dizziness and fatigue as well as difficulty concentrating. They may also experience a loss of memory, disturbances in their normal sleep patterns, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and irritability.
Whiplash is diagnosed by the physician by X-rays, which are used to rule out other injuries such a spinal fracture (fracture of the vertebra of the spine), dislocation (vertebra that have moved out of their correct position), or arthritis. The physician may also use a CT scan (computerized tomography), which gives a much more detailed view of the soft tissues in the neck as well as a better view of the position of the vertebra. Another method of diagnosis is an MRI (magnetic resonance image), which is exceptional at detection soft tissue injuries of the muscles and tendons as well as of the spinal cord itself.
What are the methods of treating whiplash?
Mild cases of whiplash may be treated at home with OTC (over the counter) medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen sodium (Aleve). Other home remedies include hot and/or cold compresses or massage. But some more serious cases may require treatment by a physician.
Your physician may prescribe narcotic analgesic pain relievers like hydrocodone (Lortab, Vicodin), or muscle relaxers such as Flexeril or Skelaxin. Even more severe or persistent cases of whiplash may require you to visit your physician and have him perform injections of lidocaine (Xylocaine), or they may prescribe ultrasound treatment.
Your physician may also prescribe physical therapy, as your pain permits, you will perform various exercises to help stretch and strengthen the muscles. The image of the neck brace (cervical collar) that we relate to neck injuries are a thing of the past. Once thought to be beneficial, it turns out they are actually a detriment to healing as they cause the neck muscles to weaken and exacerbate the problem. If you have trouble sleeping or holding your head up without pain your physician may prescribe the use of a brace temporarily. The brace will only be worn for about three hours daily during sleep.
The Mayo Clinic suggests other non-traditional methods may help you find relief from a whiplash injury, these could include the use of a TENS unit (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), acupuncture, massage therapy, or chiropractic care. Great caution should be used with chiropractic care however as there have been instances where chiropractic treatment of the neck has caused severe injury and paralysis. Consult with your physician to determine the best treatment for your whiplash injury.