Whiplash is a neck injury that affects nearly three million Americans each year. Usually the result of a rear-end car accident, whiplash occurs when the neck experiences hyperextension and hyperflexion. In other words, it’s a serious neck sprain caused by the head forcefully moving backward and then forward.
Whiplash can also be caused by falling, playing sports, and being shaken or punched. The neck is a vulnerable yet vital part of your body; it’s important to know about the potentially dangerous whiplash consequences so you can get help as soon as possible.
A Pain in the Neck
The neck, also referred to as the cervical spine, is a complex structure made up of spinal bones, intervertebral discs, muscles, ligaments and nerves. What happens during whiplash is that the sudden impact forces the neck’s lower vertebrae one way and the upper vertebrae another way, creating an S-shaped curve. This unnatural position damages the soft tissues (ligaments, tendons, muscles) of the neck.
While neck pain is the number one whiplash consequence, there can be widespread trauma all over the body. Other symptoms may include:
- Muscle tenderness or stiffness
- Blurred vision
- Brain fog and memory issues
- Ear ringing
Be mindful, the symptoms of whiplash aren’t always immediate. In fact, many develop over time. Contact your doctor at Southeastern Spine Institute (SSI) if you notice any numbness, tingling or weakness around your neck or upper back, or if the pain spreads down to your arms or shoulders. The physicians at SSI know what to look for and what treatments may provide the best solutions.
Diagnosis Is Tantamount
You should schedule an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible. Upon meeting with you, he will look over your medical history and then perform physical and neurological examinations. The sooner you receive treatments, the less chance you have of incurring additional injury, a common whiplash consequence.
Initially, your spinal doctor typically looks for signs of spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury. He also assesses your pain level, and orders blood work and different types of image testing such as X-rays, CT scans or an MRI scan.
Your individual treatment depends on the severity and extent of your injury. Generally, treatment may include:
- Some light range-of-motion exercises
- Anti-inflammatory pain medication
- Medication to relax the affected muscles
- Short-term rest
- Ice on the area for a couple days, then alternate application of ice and heat
Your doctor may recommend additional types of treatments, such as:
- Physical therapy, massage therapy
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
- Trigger point injections
Whiplash consequences rarely require surgery. But if you have undergone regular treatment and are still experiencing pain, you should have a thorough discussion with your doctor about your options and the possibility of surgery.
Usually, people who have whiplash only experience symptoms for one to two months. Whiplash can be devastating for people who endure more serious injuries. In extreme cases, whiplash consequences can last up to two years. Whiplash can even be traced to other injuries, like joint, disc and ligament damage.
Because whiplash consequences can be severe and life-altering, it’s important that you visit a doctor right away. The team of medical professionals at SSI is skilled in treating whiplash and other spine conditions.