Whiplash is a layperson term given to describe neck injuries that are caused by a sudden distortion of the neck associated with the extension of the head. The action that is reported is that the head experiences a sudden backward movement, causing the neck to go into rapid extension, as occurs with people in a vehicle that is rear-ended. So, what does whiplash feel like? Symptoms experienced by affected individuals include neck and back pain, headaches, pain referred to the shoulders, and a sensation of pins-and-needles in the arms and legs. These issues can occur immediately after the injury but in most cases, they are experienced a few days after the injury.
These symptoms are thought to occur as a result of a rapid and violent shift in the stationary neck joints which then return to their normal position. In the case of motor vehicle accidents, the joints on top of the neck shift back, while the ones below the neck shift forward. This results in the ligaments holding the joints in place stretching, which gives rise to the patient’s complaints.
Chronic pain associated with whiplash
Between 13 to 25 percent of the American population complains of chronic pain (pain that lasts for longer than three months). Of these individuals, 37 percent report that their chronic pain is as a result of a motor vehicle accident where a whiplash-type injury occurred.
Due to the ligaments stretching, the muscles in the neck become tense in order to compensate for the loose neck joint ligaments. This pain can become persistent if not managed appropriately or if the injury is severe, and this is why patients experience long-term effects of whiplash such as chronic pain.
Management of whiplash
Fortunately, up to 90 percent of patients who experience a whiplash recover from their injuries in a couple of short months through conservative measures such as using anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy of the neck.
In the remaining 10 percent of patients, the neck joint ligaments are either stretched too far or the affected joint is damaged to the point where it won’t heal on its own. In these patients, the pain associated with the condition is located by administering a local anesthetic medication, or nerve block, around the injured area to determine whether a damaged neck joint is the cause of the pain. If the pain decreases, then the diagnosis of the joint being affected is confirmed.
Treating whiplash with plasma-rich platelet (PSP) and stem cell therapy
Once the confirmation of the neck joint being involved is made, then severe whiplash treatment protocols using PRP or stem cells may be initiated. PRP is collected from the patient’s own blood which is spun down and separated.
PRP stimulates the release of growth factors in the body which attracts critical and other stem cells to initiate and speed up the natural healing process. This increases the rate of tissue repair in the damaged neck joints and improves the patient’s outcomes after the administration of three to four treatments. PRP therapy is therefore highly effective and is a safe and reliable treatment to use in whiplash-related injuries.