Whiplash

What Is Whiplash?

An injury most commonly affecting the cervical spine (neck region) – whiplash occurs when the tendons and ligaments in the neck are overstretched and damaged as a result of a sudden movement of the head, which may be forwards, backwards or sideways. The cervical spine is designed to be more flexible than the rest of the spine, as it provides support and movement for the head, this therefore means it is more susceptible to injury which may result in whiplash neck pain.

Causes

whiplash Whiplash may be caused by any forceful movement of the neck – it is however, heavily associated with road traffic collisions, usually as result of the crash. The condition can also occur from a heavy blow to the head, a slip or a fall, a sports injury such as boxing, rugby or other types of high contact sport.

How Long Does Whiplash Last?

The length of time whiplash pain is felt varies from person to person and depends on the severity of the initial injury. For some, it may be only a few weeks or months whereas in other cases it may develop into a chronic pain disorder with ongoing neck pain and further complications.

Symptoms

Most symptoms usually develop within 24 hours of the initial injury and may include:

  • Pain and tenderness in the neck
  • Headaches
  • Loss of the range of motion in the neck
  • Stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Tingling and numbness in the arms
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Dizziness
  • Referred pain

Chronic Symptoms

In some cases the symptoms of whiplash do not resolve themselves and become chronic. Suffering from chronic pain can seriously impact quality of life – feeling constant pain in itself is depressing and can result in clinical depression, fear avoidance behavioural patterns, social isolation, disturbed sleep, difficulty concentrating; all which will have a knock-on effect on all aspects of life including work and relationships.

Diagnosis

A thorough examination of the neck to identify the affected area, including an assessment of the patient’s range of movements. Diagnostic tools such as an MRI scan, CT scan or an X-ray may useful in identifying specific injuries.

Treatment

Medication

pain management pills

Over the counter pain medication such as analgesics and anti-inflammatories may provide relief –  for more severe cases, stronger painkillers may be prescribed.

Physiotherapy

Specific exercises and stretches can help to increase movement, flexibility and ultimately relieve the painful symptoms.

Self-Care

A self-care plan may include one or both of the above as well as ice packs, warm compresses and sleeping with a supportive pillow.

Excessive rest may worsen symptoms, leading to increased stiffness and a larger chance of developing chronic symptoms.

Pain Management

A pain management clinic can help patients manage their symptoms using a multidisciplinary team of physicians, physiotherapists, psychologists and surgeons all working together to form a comprehensive treatment plan. Many pain management clinics adopt the biopsychosocial approach, taking into consideration not only the patient’s physical or biological symptoms, their psychological wellbeing, as well as their individual socio economic circumstances.

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