Whiplash occurs when a person’s head moves backward and then forward suddenly with great force. This injury is most common following a rear-end car collision. It can also result from physical abuse, sports injuries, or amusement park rides.
Whiplash results when the soft tissues (the muscles and ligaments) of your neck extend beyond their typical range of motion. Your symptoms might not appear for a while, so it’s important to pay attention to any physical changes for a few days following any accident.
Whiplash is thought of as a relatively mild condition, but it can cause long-term pain and discomfort.
Whiplash occurs when the muscles in your neck suffer a strain because of a rapid movement backward and then forward. The sudden motion causes your neck’s tendons and ligaments to stretch and tear, resulting in whiplash.
Some things that can cause whiplash include:
- car accidents
- physical abuse, such as being punched or shaken
- contact sports such as football, boxing, and karate
- horseback riding
- cycling accidents
- falls in which the head violently jerks backward
- blows to the head with a heavy object
Symptoms usually appear within 24 hours after the incident that caused the whiplash. Sometimes, symptoms may develop after a few days. They can last for several weeks.
Common symptoms include:
- neck pain and stiffness
- headaches, specifically at the base of the skull
- blurred vision
- constant weariness
Less common symptoms associated with chronic whiplash include:
- problems with concentration and memory
- ringing in the ears
- inability to sleep well
- chronic pain in the neck, shoulders, or head
You should follow up with your doctor immediately if:
- your symptoms spread to your shoulders or arms
- moving your head is painful
- you have numbness or weakness in your arms
The treatments for whiplash are relatively simple. Doctors will often prescribe an OTC pain medication. More severe injuries may require prescription painkillers and muscle relaxants to reduce muscle spasms.
In addition to medication, Assured Health Physiotherapy believes that physical therapy plays a crucial role in recovery. You may want to apply ice or heat to the injured area and practice simple exercises to build strength and flexibility in your neck. Practice good posture and learn relaxation techniques to keep your neck muscles from straining and to help with recovery.