Whiplash injury, commonly called as neck strain is a common neck injury that is caused by a sudden acceleration or de-acceleration force. The most common cause of whiplash injury is car accidents, which result in the forward and backward movement of the person’s neck and head. Whiplash injury affects both bones and soft tissues. Here is a complete guide to whiplash, its causes, symptoms, and treatment.
Vehicle accidents are the most common cause of whiplash injuries in people. When a car is moving at a significant speed and abruptly stops or a vehicle is at rest and moves ahead with a sudden force, certain neck movements take place. This sudden forward or backward motion of the neck and head leads to the hyperextension of the neck and head. Similarly, the sudden motion of the neck and head in the forward direction is known as a hyper flexed position. Additionally, it is discovered that when the lower bones in the neck are hyperextended, and the upper neck bones are hyper flexed, it leads to an S-shaped cervical position that causes damage to soft tissues and cervical vertebrae.
Not every minor neck strain is a whiplash injury. Some common symptoms of a whiplash injury include:
- Neck Pain and Stiffness
- Shoulder and Back Pain and Stiffness
- Arm Weakness
- Fatigue and Dizziness
- Ringing in the Ears
- Visual Disturbances (Rare)
Examination and Diagnosis
After an accident, the person will be taken to a doctor where the doctor will perform the necessary examinations. The doctor will check the patient and will prescribe the desired treatment. The doctor might also recommend a neck collar for additional support. If the injury looks serious, the doctor will also recommend an X-ray. The first thing a doctor will look for while diagnosing a whiplash injury is any significant damage to the neck or head that requires immediate treatment.
If the X-ray does not show any signs of fractures or other bone injuries, the doctor might recommend the patient to continue with the neck collar for a few weeks. If the pain persists, the doctor might retake the X-rays in different positions. The doctor can also order an MRI to find any soft tissue injuries. MRI can give an additional layer of examination and identify certain problems that are not possible to identify by X-ray alone.
Different treatments of whiplash exist and can be prescribed depending upon the symptoms. In case pain has resulted coming from a physical trauma or injury, it’s very likely that a doctor will prescribe painkiller medications to effectively manage painful symptoms during recovery. Find a whiplash doctor at AICA Orthopedics. However, one of the major issues in the treatment of whiplash is that the patients have little to no education about their injury. Although whiplash is an injury, a complete recovery is possible. Patients need to be patient and make gradual progress.
However, patients make mistakes with their treatments, which magnify their whiplash injury into a more severe condition known as the “whiplash associated disorder.” One of the myths when it comes to whiplash treatment is that healing requires immobilization. However, studies have found that immobilization has a reverse impact and can slow down the healing process. Newer studies show that patients that are engaged in easy motion exercises improve at a better rate.
Therefore, immobilization and excessive rest can lead to chronic problems. Immobilization leads to reduced range of motion and increased pain and stiffness. Additionally, immobilization causes muscle atrophy and blood circulation problems, as well. In severe cases, patients can also develop psychological symptoms like depression or mood swings. These symptoms can be early signs of the “whiplash associated disorder.” The doctor will prescribe the desired treatment if such a condition arises.
How to Prevent Whiplash?
As per the famous saying, “prevention is better than cure,” and it applies to whiplash as well. Head restraints and advanced seat belts can reduce the chances of a whiplash injury. The purpose of head restraints is to restrict the movement of the head to get into the hyperextended or hyper flexed position. However, the head restraint must be appropriately positioned right behind the head. If the head restraint is not positioned correctly, it can have negative impacts and can force the head into hyperextension. Modern-day vehicles come with other modern types of equipment like air curtains and airbags that help to prevent injuries during an accident.
Whiplash injuries are one of the most commonly occurred injuries, especially during car accidents. However, whiplash injuries can be easily cured if some guidelines are followed. One thing you should understand is that whiplash injuries can be healed entirely if you follow the treatment correctly. Too much rest can have adverse effects and can worsen the situation. You can also take necessary precautions like head restraints and airbags to prevent whiplash injuries.