What is Whiplash?
Whiplash refers to a neck injury that is caused due to a forced and sudden back and forth movement of the neck. It is due to its resemblance to the cracking of the whip that it gets its name. The resulting injury is called Whiplash and it is characterized by torn muscles and tissues in the neck region that can be extremely painful.
While car collisions are the most common cause of these injuries, almost any accident can cause Whiplash. Thankfully, in most cases, the muscles heal by themselves and only pain medication and physiotherapy prove to be sufficient care. However, in a few rare cases, long-term complications may arise based on the severity of the injury and the age and general physical condition of the individual.
The Signs and Symptoms of Whiplash do not always manifest immediately but almost certainly can be observed in the two to three days following the accident that caused the injury. The Whiplash Symptoms are nearly impossible to ignore due to the pain and require medical treatment.
- Neck Stiffness: Inability to move the neck as normal and pain in the neck muscles could point towards Whiplash.
- Headaches: Headaches especially at the base of the skull following an accident could mean that the person has suffered a Whiplash injury.
- Fatigue and Pain: Pain and Tenderness in the Shoulders, Neck, Arms, and Upper Back as well as General fatigue is observed in cases of Whiplash injuries.
If these symptoms are accompanied by Blurred Vision, Inability to Concentrate, Loss of Memory, Severe Headache, Inability to Speak Properly, or Nausea, emergency assistance must be sought as soon as possible.
Who is at Risk?
Whiplash Risk Factors can be ascertained based on an individual’s age, fitness, and lifestyle. There are some factors that could increase the likelihood of a person suffering a Whiplash injury.
- Age: Children who are below the age of five and older individuals are more likely to suffer from Whiplash in case of a sudden jerking movement as their muscles are weaker.
- Prior Injury: Those who have suffered Whiplash or similar neck injuries are more prone to getting injured again.
- Participation in Contact Sports increased the chances of suffering a Whiplash injury.
- Driving or riding at high speeds and not following road safety rules could put you at a greater risk of an auto accident and subsequent Whiplash injury.
Whiplash is caused by a sudden strain on the neck muscles because of a whip-like movement of your head backward and then forward. This sudden movement can be due to a variety of causes.
- Car Accidents: the most common cause of Whiplash is car crashes or accidents where a rear-end collision at significant speed is involved.
- Sporting Accidents: both at the amateur and professional level, sporting accidents in American football, rugby, boxing, and other contact sports often lead to Whiplash.
- Physical abuse or Assault: a person might suffer Whiplash injuries if he is struck with force on the chest or head. Blows to the head with heavy objects may also cause Whiplash.
- Falling: An individual might get Whiplash if he suffers a fall that causes the head to jerk violently.
- Other activities like horseback riding, cycling, and biking could also be high risk if an accident occurs.
How is Whiplash Diagnosed?
Whiplash Diagnosis is done based on a thorough consultation with a doctor who will try and ascertain the severity of the injury through a physical examination of the neck. An X-Ray is the starting point to diagnose Whiplash and in some cases, a CT or MRI Scan may also be required to determine the extent of the damage to the nerves, tissues, and spinal cord, if any.
A detailed physical examination will help the doctor localize the problem and eliminate any serious damage to the brain or the spine. The doctor will then ensure that adequate treatment is provided to assist in the healing of the injury based on the results of the examination.
How is Whiplash Treated?
Treatment for Whiplash is straightforward and simple. Since most Whiplash injuries heal on their own, treatment mostly involves pain relief and physical therapy.
- Apply Ice: The best way to reduce swelling and pain in the neck is to ice it regularly for the first few days as advised by the doctor.
- Over-the-counter Pain Medication: Your doctor will probably prescribe OTC pain medicines to help you deal with the discomfort caused by the injury. In more severe cases, muscle relaxants or anti-spasm medicines might be required.
- Neck Brace: A neck brace is usually recommended for the first few days after the injury only to keep the neck stable and prevent unnecessary movement. Care must be taken to use the neck brace only on the doctor’s advice as overuse can have detrimental effects.
- Physiotherapy: Whiplash Physio treatment involves massages and easy exercises to regain strength and muscle flexibility in the neck.
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How to Prevent Whiplash?
Whiplash can occur because of any physical injury that might not always be avoidable and in your control. However, there are ways in which you could condition and strengthen your neck muscles and certain precautions while engaging in certain activities to Prevent Whiplash injuries.
- Strength training can greatly tone and condition your neck muscles and make them more resilient to strain and sudden movements.
- Do not strain your neck muscles too much and always practice stretching and take regular breaks if your job description involves sitting in one position for long hours.
- When in a car, always wear your seat belt and maintain adequate distance from the vehicles in front of you. Sit straight and opt for head restraints that protect your spine and neck in case of an accident or a crash.
- Avoid high-speed thrill rides at amusement parks such as roller coasters that might cause rapid back and forth movement of your head.