FAQs on Whiplash
About 120,000 Americans are treated for whiplash pain every year. At least two percent of estimated two million men and women injured in nonfatal auto accidents face the risk of suffering from this medical condition. Taking together injuries from contact sports, slip and fall injuries, physical assault, amusement park rides and neck blows from various other activities, about 2 to 3 million people experience whiplash injuries of various degrees.
What is whiplash injury?
Whiplash injury indicates a traumatic condition associated with sudden jolt to the cervical spine. It is caused by violent or abrupt pressure on the neck forcing it to whip backward and forward. The unexpected jerking impacts and harms neck muscles, disks, ligament and even nerves. The pressure exerted causes disruption in the cervical spine alignment and entrapment of nerve roots by the vertebra. This triggers recurring pain and restricted neck movement, two important signs of whiplash injury.
Whiplash commonly occurs in victims of auto accidents and sports injuries. Rear-end motor collisions perpetrates the highest number of cases. Those suffering from work injuries, collision injuries and fall injuries are at increased risk. The severity and need for treatment vary from patient to patient.
How does whiplash injury occur?
The neck comprises of bony structures, cervical spine, muscles, ligaments and nerves. When there is a quick blow on the neck, the muscles and ligaments are forced to overstretch beyond their typical ability to absorb the shock. This phenomenon is observed when the neck whips backward and forward. As a result, there may be injuries to neck muscle, ligament and the cervical spine or even physical changes in the cervical vertebra alignment.
If the alignment is affected, nerve roots are likely to be entrapped or stretched and irritated leading to inflammation and pain. If there is damage to disc, muscles or ligaments, there is the likelihood of injury and inflammation, which also contribute to painful symptoms and reduced neck mobility.
What are signs and symptoms of whiplash injury?
A patient with whiplash injury is likely to have one or more of the following symptomps.
- Stiff neck
- Neck pain immediately or 24 hours after the accident
- Cervical pain restricting neck motion to front, back or sides
- Restricted neck mobility
- Headaches at the backside or base of your skull
- Spasms and tenderness in muscles of the neck, shoulder, upper back and arm
- Pain, numbness or tingling sensation in arms
- Dizziness, weariness, blurred vision, headaches, concentration difficulty, irritation
- Neck ligament injury
- Myofascial injuries
- Facet joint syndrome
- Paresthesias, fatigue, upper back pain, Sleep disturbances, shoulder pain
What are the causes of whiplash injury?
Whiplash injury to the neck occurs when it is subject to excessive stress or jolt from
- auto accidents
- physical assault
- contact sports injuries
- cycling accidents
- injuries from slip and fall
- blows to the head from a heavy object
- inappropriate landing during a jump
- carrying heaving objects for long or weightlifting
- injury from horse riding
- injury from intense activities
Who are at the increased risk of whiplash injury?
Victims of rear- or side-impact car collisions and sportspersons are at the increased risk of whiplash injuries. Those with cervical spine arthritis and adventure sports enthusiasts also face the risk.
When to see a doctor?
Minor whiplash injuries resolve within a short period. However, a major injury may lead to recurring pain that lasts for weeks. Consult a doctor, if you experience recurring severe neck pain, cervical strain or stiffness in the neck or upper back within a few weeks of the injury.
How is whiplash injury diagnosed?
- Physical verification of symptoms and pain area
- X-ray or MRI to rule out injuries to the vertebrae
- CT scan to verify injuries to soft tissues
- Any other test required to rule out potential existence of other conditions causing neck pain
What are complications of whiplash injury?
What are treatment methods for whiplash injury?
Whiplash injury treatment has two objectives – reduce or suppress pain and facilitate improved neck movement.
- Self-Care and Conservative Methods
Rest, physical therapy, ice pack use, massage, acupressure and certain cervical, flexibility and breathing exercises help reduce pain and recover from minor whiplash injuries.
- Medication and Medical Devices
NSAIDs, muscular relaxants and other pain killers are prescribed to patients complaining of whiplash pain. Patients wearing cervical collars are most common examples of whiplash injury treatment. Made from foam, these devices are mostly suggested immediately after the injury. However, their long-term use negatively affects the recovery, as muscular strength is eroded.
- Long-Term Pain Management Methods
- Electrical stimulation: It stuns the irritated nerves and affects their ability to carry pain signals.
- Trigger point injections: Injections of numbing medication with or without steroid mixed deaden the painful muscle spot and treat inflammation and facilitate neck movement without pain.
- Botox: Injections containing botulinum toxin paralyze muscles causing cervical stiffness and pain and assure pain relief.
- Medial branch block: Numbing medication blocks the ability of medial branch and treat their inflammation and irritation. It is best in case of whiplash pain from entrapped nerve roots.
OSPI offers top notch orthopedic, pain management and chiropractic treatment in Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, Queen Creek and surrounding areas. All types of nonoperative treatment are offered at the practice, including medications, manipulations, electrical stimulation, TENS unit, facet/medial branch injections, radiofrequency ablation, trigger point injections and more.
Most insurance including personal injury liens are accepted at OSPI. Quick appointments are available. Call (480) 899-4333 for more information and scheduling with the top chiropractic, orthopedic and pain management providers in the East Valley!