What is whiplash?
Whiplash is a general term used to describe tenderness or pain in the neck. The pain is caused by damaging or stressing of the ligaments, joints or vertebra in the neck. In addition to neck pain or stiffness , other symptoms include headaches, back pain and even dull, achy pain in the shoulders and arms. One may also experience tinnitus or ringing in the ears and limited range of motion in the neck.
What can cause whiplash?
This type of neck injury is caused by a quick or abrupt jerking motion of the head. This often happens when a person is involved in a car accident as the body is properly restrained, but the head is free to move back and forth. This type of neck injury can also be caused by slip and fall injuries.
How is this ailment diagnosed?
It can be difficult to diagnose this sore neck problem because there is usually a delay of up to 24 hours between the incident and the beginning of symptoms. A doctor can tentatively diagnose this problem without any intensive tests based on symptoms and inquiries alone. However, many doctors will choose to have an MRI or other imaging procedure performed in order to confirm the appropriate diagnosis before beginning treatment. This will also help rule out other problems like a concussion or fractures.
How is whiplash treated?
Mild cases of neck sprain will often resolve on their own without medical intervention. Simply limiting neck movement and applying ice for several days can clear up the problem. However, in more severe cases, the ligaments and tendons in the neck and shoulders are stretched or more deeply bruised. When ice and reducing neck movement is not enough, a doctor will often recommend over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen. Some cases will also require a neck brace to completely immobilize the neck and allow it to heal properly. Using heat treatment on this type of injury can be helpful, but is not recommended for the first two to three days after the initial injury. For continued pain or other issues after the area has healed can often be addressed by alternative options like massage or acupuncture.