Whiplash is a neck injury caused by sudden, forceful back and forth movement of the neck.
It is commonly caused in car accidents, but is also common in sports injuries, falls or physical assault.
The pain associated with whiplash may not be felt immediately after the accident but come on a few days later.
Most people get better in a few weeks as the pain is caused by the strain of the neck muscles with the aid of painkillers and exercises. In more chronic cases, the pain can be long-lasting and require additional treatments to clear.
Symptoms of whiplash usually appear within. A few days of the injury and may include:
- Neck Pain and stiffness
- Increased pain with movement of the neck
- Difficulty in moving the neck
- Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back or arms.
- Tingling and numbness in the arms
The head can weigh as much as 14 pounds and it is supported by the upper spine and neck muscles. When the head is forcefully and rapidly thrown forwards and backwards it pulls on not only the neck muscles and ligaments but also the ligaments and muscles of the upper back and shoulders. It can also cause damage to the bones in the discs in the spine.
A whiplash injury may result from:
- A road traffic accident when the vehicle is hit with speed.
- Physical assault – where the person is shaken violently or punched in the head.
- Sporting Injuries – in contact sports where opponents are tackled, for example in Rugby
Treatment of whiplash is similar to the treatment of any muscle strain. This includes:
- Painkillers and/or anti-inflammatories to reduce and pain or inflammation
- Physical therapy of the affected muscles and ligaments to reduce the risk of stiffness and aid movement
- Realignment of the spine (this is done with gentle techniques at The Hannon Clinic)
In cases where the whiplash is not treated following an injury, the muscles may become stiffer and tighter over time. This can add further complicates such as numbness and tingling sensations due to trapped nerves, anxiety or stress due to on-going pain.