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Whiplash Injuries and Related Neck Pain Due to Accidents

  • Published: 2010-10-12 (Revised/Updated 2014-01-10) : Disabled World.
  • Synopsis: Whiplash is the name for neck sprains to the cervical thoracic or lumbar spines and is commonly associated with vehicle accidents

Main Document

Quote: "The consequences of whiplash range from mild pain for a few days, to severe disability caused by restricted head movement or of the cervical spine, sometimes with persistent pain."

Whiplash is the name for neck sprains to the cervical, thoracic or lumbar spines and is commonly associated with vehicle accidents usually when the vehicle has been hit in the rear.

A whiplash injury can also occur during diving, sports, and many other everyday life pursuits. Whiplash can also be called neck sprain or a neck strain. The injury is referred to as "whiplash" due to the neck or back being thrown forwards and/or backwards.

A whiplash injury can also be the result of stretching of the spine, in particular the ligament known as the anterior longitudinal ligament which is often stretched or tears, as the head snaps forward and then back again.

It has been documented that 2 in 3 people involved in vehicle accidents develop neck pain, many people are often surprised at having symptoms when the car crash was minor or happened at a very low speed.

Four grades of Whiplash Associated Disorder (WADs) were defined by the Quebec Task Force on Whiplash-associated disorders.

  • Complaints of neck pain, stiffness or tenderness only but no physical signs are noted by the examining physician.
  • Neck complaints and the examining physician finds decreased range of motion and point tenderness in the neck.
  • Decreased range of motion plus neurological signs such as decreased deep tendon reflexes, weakness, insomnia and sensory deficits.
  • Neck complaints and fracture or dislocation, or injury to the spinal cord.

The consequences of whiplash range from mild pain for a few days, to severe disability caused by restricted head movement or of the cervical spine, sometimes with persistent pain. Whiplash Injuries have been known to exacerbate pre-existing conditions, such as spondylosis and other degenerative changes.

Symptoms can appear directly after the injury, but quite often are not felt until several days afterwards. One of the biggest danger with whiplash injuries is that the symptoms may take years to develop. Most people recover from whiplash in a few weeks, but others can experience related pain and trouble for many years after.

If you suspect a whiplash injury some of the symptoms you may experience include:

  • Sensory disturbance (such as pins and needles) to the arms & legs.
  • Sleeplessness.
  • Tiredness.
  • Headaches.
  • Ringing in ears.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Concentration or memory problems.
  • Irritability.
  • Lower back pain.
  • Pain and aching to the neck and back.
  • Referred pain to the shoulders.
  • Pain in the arm and/or hand.
  • Numbness in the arm and/or hand.

Few topics in the field of medicine are as controversial as diagnosing and treating whiplash injuries.

Here are some Ways Whiplash can be Treated.

(A doctor should always be consulted first as there can sometimes be damage without any symptoms, or there can be delayed symptoms.)

  • In the first 24 hours after the injury, an ice bag applied to the neck will help to relieve inflammation.
  • Wearing of a cervical collar to prevent movement.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications and/or muscle relaxing medications.
  • Physical therapy often involving gentle active movement after the first 24 hours.
  • Try to keep your neck moving as normally as possible. At first the pain may be bad and you may need to rest your neck for a day or so. However try to gently exercise the neck as soon as possible. You should try not to let your neck stiffen up.

Related Information:

  1. Whiplash Injury Information and How to Claim
  2. Sharp Neck Pain could be a Strain or Sprain
  3. Thomas C. Weiss (Jan 10, 2014). Seat Belts - Friend or Foe

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