Whiplash

Whiplash occurs when the neck and spine are suddenly strained, causing damage to the bones, muscles, ligaments, and nerves.

Last Updated: February 25, 2024

The number of persons who suffer from whiplash each year is in the millions all over the world. Although anybody can be affected by whiplash, older adults and females have a higher risk of experiencing serious or long-lasting injuries. Because people over the age of 65 are more likely to have any form of injury to their muscles or bones, this condition is more severe in this age group.

The most common cause of whiplash is a collision involving rapid acceleration or deceleration. Whiplash is a common injury sustained in rear-end car accidents.

The most typical signs of whiplash are:

  • Discomfort or pain in the neck
  • Pain in the shoulder
  • Lumbar pain
  • Dizziness
  • Tingling, aching, or numbness in the fingers or arms
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Blurry vision
  • Problems in focusing or remembering
  • Irritability
  • Sleeplessness
  • Tiredness

Doctors first rule out more serious conditions that need treatment right away or other possible causes before reaching whiplash injury as a diagnosis.

There are a number of tests, most of which are imaging scans, that can help a doctor rule out other problems and diagnose whiplash. These tests include:

  • X-rays to check if there are any fractures;
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scans are used as a better alternative, especially in levels or areas of the bone that Xray can not view;
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans for soft tissues surrounding a bone.

Treatment

There is no direct cure for whiplash, although it can be managed. The treatment focuses on facilitating the body's natural recovery from whiplash and reducing associated symptoms as much as possible.

Depending on the severity of the damage, some therapies for whiplash are more effective immediately after the accident, while others are more effective in addressing the long-term consequences and chronic issues that can develop as a result of a whiplash injury. The most common ways to treat whiplash are the following:

  • Immobilization using a cervical collar
  • Medications such as painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxers, and nerve-block agents
  • Apply a cold compress for the first seven to ten days. After that, it is best to apply a heat compress
  • Physical therapy and exercise
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Radiofrequency nerve ablation
  • In the worst cases, spinal surgery.

To reduce risk, exercise the following:

  • Seat arrangement and headrest use can lower the risk of whiplash from vehicle-related incidents. Orthopedic seat cushions can change the height or posture to make headrests more effective;
  • Wear a seatbelt to halt the forward motion during any car-related incidents;
  • Being a defensive and responsible driver;
  • If there's time, put your head on the headrest and face forward if you suspect a rear-end collision. Properly placed headrests prevent head, neck, and body movement that can induce whiplash;
  • When playing any contact sports, avoid dangerous or aggressive attacks.

 

References

 

Mayo Clinic (2022). Whiplash. Retrieved December 22, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/whiplash/symptoms-causes/

 

Johns Hopkins Medicine (2022). Whiplash. Retrieved December 22, 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/whiplash-injury

Last Updated: February 25, 2024