Also referred to as neck strain or neck sprain, whiplash occurs when your neck suddenly jerks backward or forward and damages your neck tissue. Although the most common cause of whiplash is a rear-end collision, you may also face whiplash because you were playing a contact sport, fell from a height, or experienced a physical trauma where your body shook or jolted quickly.
Symptoms of Whiplash
Although symptoms of whiplash injury may appear immediately after an accident or physical trauma, it often takes days or even weeks for them to be apparent. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may be facing whiplash:
- Headaches or migraines
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Impaired vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Challenges with thinking or remembering
- Pain in the jaw, lower back, or hip
- Numbness and tingling in the face, arms, or shoulders
If you believe you are coping with whiplash, a thorough physical evaluation will be performed while your medical history and symptoms are assessed. Then, x-rays or an MRI scan may be taken to look at any muscle, disc, or ligament damage that may be contributing to the symptoms you are experiencing and confirm the whiplash.
Fortunately, most people recover from whiplash after a few weeks. However, some develop chronic pain that persists for months or even years. When a whiplash injury is left untreated, it can become complex and lead to a number of serious problems such as:
- A herniated disc
- Joint dysfunction
- Chronic pain
- Flawed movement patterns
- Cognitive dysfunction
Treatment for whiplash depends on its severity. If your whiplash is minor, you may be able to relieve it by wrapping an ice pack in a towel and applying it to your neck. Anti-inflammatory pain medications and rest may help as well.
In the event your whiplash injury is more severe, you may need to participate in physical therapy exercises and/or wear a neck brace or cervical collar for a few weeks or months. Surgery for whiplash is usually only needed in rare cases when conservative measures have not helped.
In some cases, whiplash is unavoidable. However, you can reduce your risk of suffering from it by strengthening your neck muscles and ligaments, avoiding contact sports, and always driving with caution.
Contact EmergeOrtho: Foothills Region
If you’ve been involved in a car accident, were injured while playing a contact sport, fell from a height, or experienced any other type of physical trauma, you may be facing a whiplash injury. To determine whether you have whiplash and seek treatment, contact EmergeOrtho: Foothills Region as soon as possible.