Typically the result of a rear-end car crash, whiplash is caused by the sudden extension (backward movement) and flexion (forward movement) of the neck.
While most cases of whiplash are minor, more severe cases can include damage to the intervertebral joints, discs, ligaments, cervical muscles and nerve roots.
Typical symptoms of whiplash include:
- Pain to the neck, back or shoulders
- Stiff neck
- Paraesthesia (tingling or prickling)
- Myofascial injuries
- Headache and dizziness (symptoms of possible concussion)
- Difficulty swallowing and chewing (symptoms of injury to the esophagus and larynx)
X-rays may be required to rule out spinal problems or injuries.
Fortunately, most cases respond to conservative treatment and will resolve in 4 to 6 weeks.
Initial treatment often includes wearing a soft cervical collar for 2 to 3 weeks to keep the neck immobilized. Other treatments may include:
- Heat therapy to relieve muscle tension and pain
- Pain medications
- Muscle relaxants
However, if continue beyond 6 to 8 weeks, or indeed worsen, then further diagnostic testing may be necessary in order to locate a more severe injury. If this is the case, surgical repair of the discs may be necessary.