In the movies or in commercials for injury attorneys, whiplash is often the result of a traumatic car crash. But did you know that whiplash injuries are also caused by sports injuries and falls? The term describes neck pain that happens when your neck is sprained or hyper-extended. The intervertebral joints, discs, ligaments, and even nerves are damaged, which leads to neck strain.
Any activity that causes the head to be suddenly jerked back, front or to the side can result in whiplash.
Car accidents are a common cause of whiplash because of the force involved with the crash. Even going 15 miles an hour can cause whiplash, depending on other factors. Football players or athletes that engage in other contact sports also are prone to whiplash. Child abuse similar to shaken baby syndrome can cause the condition in children. But whiplash can also be caused by far less dramatic events. Chronic strain from holding a phone to your ear or from sleeping in a bad position for your spine or neck can cause non-acute cases of whiplash.
Symptoms of whiplash may not be fully felt until 24 hours following the injury. They include:
- Pain and stiffness
- Possible swelling in the neck
- Tenderness along the back of the neck
- Muscle spasms
- Difficulty turning, raising, or lowering your head
- Pain radiating from the neck into the shoulders and arms
- Ringing in the ears
- Blurred vision
- Low back pain
If you are involved in an accident on the sports field or in your car and the EMS crews suspect whiplash, they will use a cervical collar to temporarily immobilize your neck to prevent further damage. Doctors at the hospital will do X-rays and conduct tests to check for spinal cord damage. Sometimes a CT scan or MRI is also required to view the source of the injury. Your doctor will probably advise using ice around the neck to limit swelling for the first 24 hours. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen will help with pain relief. Your treatment may include resting your neck, heat therapy, and avoiding activities that may strain your neck. While whiplash usually resolves without complications, it is a painful condition that can worsen if not treated correctly and immediately.
For more information on scheduling an appointment with one of our physicians, call our Human Motion Institute at Medical Center Lewisville at 942-420-1800 or visit us online.