Whiplash is an injury to the cervical region caused by sudden extension movement of the neck. The most common cause of whiplash injuries is rear-ended vehicle accidents. The sudden collision forces the head to move backward vigorously and then snap forward just as forcefully, much like how a whip is cracked. The extreme motion not only elongates the neck muscles abnormally, but it also elongates other structures like the ligaments and tendons.
Other causes of whiplash injuries include roller extreme coaster rides where there are lots of shaking and tossing around, sports injuries such as wakeboarding where the sudden pull of the ropes causes the neck to snap backward then forward, or from assault and battery where the victim is shaken or kicked. Babies can also suffer from whiplash injuries, a good example of which is the shaken baby syndrome.
The Signs and Symptoms of Whiplash Injuries
Whiplash injuries can either be mild or severe, depending upon the severity of the accident or the causative factor. Some people recover from whiplash injuries after a few days; however, there are also those who develop chronic neck pain. The pain is almost always constant that even pain medications aren’t helping to reduce pain.
Symptoms of whiplash injuries include pain in the neck region, of course. The pain is aggravated by movement, and it may even radiate down to the shoulder region as well as the back and extremities. This is called referred pain wherein damaged neck structures impinge on nerve roots that supply these areas. There may also be a sensory disturbance to these regions, the cause of which is also impingement of nerve roots. The individual may also suffer from headaches, the severity of which ranges from mild to severe.
Treatment for Whiplash Injuries
The most common treatment for whiplash injuries is pain medications. The pain typically goes away after taking the pain pills, but after a while and once the effects of the pills wear off, the pain returns. Ice or cold compress therapy to the neck region also helps with the pain as it can help reduce swelling in the area. Cervical collars may also be prescribed to help limit neck movements and decrease pain. Cervical collars are used until the pain goes away.
For long-term pain relief, especially for those who are suffering from severe neck pain, physical therapy may be ordered by the doctor. Slow neck movements, gentle stretching, and neck exercises facilitated by the physical therapist help the patient gain back range of motion and increase the patient’s tolerance to pain. The patient is also treated using physical therapy treatment modalities like warm compress, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, etc.
Whiplash Injuries and Automobile Accidents
As mentioned earlier, the most common cause of whiplash injuries is automobile accidents, specifically rear-end vehicle collisions. If the cause of your whiplash injury is another vehicle rear-ending you, you should know that you can file a personal injury case against the other driver. The other driver is responsible for the accident, and as such, you have the right to claim monetary compensation from him. If you’re going to file a personal injury case though, it’s advisable that you get a lawyer who specializes in personal injury cases.