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Whiplash Injuries

March 19, 2013

Victims of car accidents often suffer from a cervical strain known as "whiplash." Whiplash injury can occur as a result of either a low speed or a high speed collision and it most often occurs in rear-end collisions. Neck injuries, including whiplash, occur because the sudden
force of a vehicle impact causes the victim's head to move forward, then backward, very quickly and unexpectedly.

You may not realize you have whiplash immediately because onset of symptoms may be delayed. In my experiences with clients, their pain usually increases each day after the accident until the third day when it is the worst; if they are receiving treatment by that time, then they are likely to feel relief soon after that. Otherwise their pain only worsens.

Whiplash is described as a neck injury to the soft tissue of the ligaments, tendons, and muscles in the neck. A whiplash injury is also considered a hypertension neck injury. Neck pain, which is often severe, is a common symptom of whiplash injury. Other symptoms include muscle spasms, headaches, neck pain, sleep disturbance, tight muscles, low back pain, tenderness in the back of the neck, poor memory, pain in the shoulders, fatigue, dizziness, vision problems, ringing in the ears, and limited range of motion.

If left untreated, some cervical injuries may worsen over time. Unfortunately, some victims suffer chronic pain resulting from a whiplash injury. If you are in pain more than six months after a car accident, you may have injuries affecting the nerve roots, intervertebral disks, or facet joints. Nerve root damage is caused by compression of the spinal vertebrae or herniated discs that compress the nerve roots. A more severe root injury may feel differently from whiplash because there is often numbness in the arms and legs.

Treatment for whiplash often includes ice packs, a neck brace, prescriptions for muscle relaxants and pain relievers, limitation of physical activity or physical therapy. The neck brace will stabilize and immobilize the cervical spine and surrounding tissues, which will help the injury heal more quickly. Physical therapy will allow small controlled movements to slowly re-strengthen the neck under medical supervision. Some accident victims may require surgery if there is still pain after attempting conservative treatment or if there is evidence of more serious injury to the cervical spine.