Whiplash Injury: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Whiplash results when a person’s head moves, suddenly with great force, backward and then forward. This injury is common among athletes and individuals who have faced a rear-end car collision. Moreover, it can result from physical abuse, amusement park rides, or sports injuries. Your symptoms might not appear immediately after an accident, but later it can cause pain and discomfort. So it’s vital to pay attention to any physical changes following an accident.

Other causes of whiplash injury:

  • Cycling accidents
  • Horseback riding
  • Blows to the head with an object
  • Contact sports such as football, karate, and boxing 
  • Falls or slips in which the person head violently jerks backward

Symptoms of whiplash

The common symptoms related to whiplash include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Headache
  • Back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Dizziness
  • Shoulder pain and stiffness
  • Arm weakness
  • Jaw pain
  • Irritability
  • Arm pain
  • Visual disturbances
  • Inability to sleep well and 
  • Problems with concentration and memory

Furthermore, symptoms in a more severe whiplash case include:

  • Depression,
  • Frustration,
  • Anxiety,
  • Anger,
  • Stress,
  • Sleep disturbance (insomnia),
  • Drug dependency,
  • Post-traumatic stress syndrome,

You should visit a doctor immediately if:

Neck Painful
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  • moving your head is painful
  • your symptoms spread to your arms 
  • you have numbness in your arms

How to Deal With Psychological Symptoms?

If a patient’s depression, anxiety, or anger following a whiplash injury becomes severe, prompt treatment of the emotional condition is necessary. Physical, in addition to emotional therapies, can help the patient to recover soon and considered to be the best whiplash treatment. 

Diagnosis: Whiplash or Sprain?

People confuse whiplash with a sprain. In simple words, whiplash (aka neck strain) is caused by direct damage to the bands that connect muscles to bones (tendons), whereas, neck sprains result due to tearing of ligaments. The difference is little and may be unnoticeable to the victim suffering from pain after an injury. However, you should seek medical help for treatment for whiplash or sprain if you’ve got the above-mentioned symptoms. 

The doctor will examine your condition to determine if an injury is serious, that requires long-term treatment. For this, the doctor may obtain dynamic x-rays of the patient’s neck to confirm the injury. If the tests are normal, but still, the patient is having neck pain, the doctor may place a neck collar (to reduce and protect the range of motion) for additional support. And call the patient back after a week for a checkup.

Other tests, such as MRI and CT scans, will allow the doctor to assess any inflammation or damage in the soft tissues, nerves, or spinal cord. Certain imaging studies, such as positron emission tomography (PET scan) or diffuse tensor imaging (DTI) may be helpful, especially when there are the chances of a brain injury. Also, these tests will help measure the extent of a brain injury or other areas.

Whiplash Treatments

The treatment for whiplash depends on the symptoms present. The first and foremost thing is to educate the patient about the injury so that he or she understands that this could be a severe injury and may have long-term effects. Also, tell them that they have to be careful in their head and neck movements. Patients who aren’t serious or do not receive proper guidance about the whiplash injury and treatment are much more likely to damage their muscles by developing long-term “whiplash associated disorder.”

Furthermore, the treatments vary based on the patient’s condition and how they got the injury. Doctors’ suggestions for minor whiplash injuries may include taking painkiller medication and icing the neck (periodically). Moderate injuries are manageable by a regular massage, whereas severe injuries may require surgery to alleviate ongoing pain. 

Is Physical Therapy Or Exercise Helps In Treating Whiplash?

Physical Therapy
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Patients who follow their doctor’s advice which, generally include exercise, show rapid improvement in their symptoms. Also, excessive immobilization can develop greater chances of chronic whiplash disorders resulting in increased stiffness and pain. This is because immobilization decreases blood flow to the tissues (muscle wasting). Therefore, physical therapy by experienced therapists can be the best way to recover a patient.

Is It Possible To Prevent Whiplash?

The answer is NO. You cannot always prevent whiplash injuries reported due to automobile or other accidents. However, advancements in automobile safety have played a big role in reducing the extent of damage results from accidents. For instance, headrest (head restraint) is an automotive safety feature that is integrated into the top of the car seat to prevent the person’s head from the sudden movement. The use of this useful gadget might prevent whiplash injury in a car collision. Also, for headrests to work properly, you have to take care of its placement––should be optimally positioned behind the head. Moreover, automobiles have airbags and other additional safety equipment to protect you and your loved ones from further injury.

The best a person can do to prevent whiplash is to buy a vehicle which has a proper head restraint and other safety features incorporated. 

Always Wear Your Seat Belt

Image by cfarnsworth from Pixabay

First, make sure you sit facing forward, wearing a seat belt to stay in the best position. 

Keep Yourself Distant 

It is advisable to leave a safe distance between your vehicle and vehicle ahead of you. So, if the other vehicle stops suddenly, you won’t crash. Always leave plenty of room for safety.

Hopefully, the tips mentioned above will help you to prevent whiplash in the unfortunate car accidents. If, however, you or your loved ones face collision and get whiplash, diagnose as soon as possible. 

Visit the Best Orthopedic Doctor 

An orthopedic doctor can diagnose head and neck injury, of any severity, and prescribe the best treatment for whiplash. In addition to medication, the doctor may prescribe physical therapies to help the patient recover soon. 

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