Whiplash is an injury of the soft tissues of the neck. It is usually caused by sudden extension (backward movement) and flexion (forward movement) of the neck, and often occurs as the result of a rear-end car crash. The neck is particularly susceptible to this type of injury because of its anatomic complexity and wide range of motion. If the whiplash is severe, injuries can also occur to the intervertebral joints, discs, ligaments, cervical muscles, and nerve roots.
The main symptom of whiplash is neck pain - immediately following an injury or occurring several hours or days later. Other symptoms may include:
After a physical and neurological examination, x-rays of the neck will be done to rule out any fractures. A CAT Scan, MRI, and/or other imaging tests may also be necessary to assess the condition of the soft tissues in the cervical spine. Every effort is made to rule out any other spinal problems that have similar symptoms.
For the first 2-3 weeks after a whiplash injury, most patients need to wear a soft cervical collar to keep the neck immobilized, allowing the soft tissues in the neck to heal. Other treatment options include:
The good news is that whiplash is usually treatable without surgery and most people are quickly able to return to a healthy, pain-free lifestyle. If you are concerned you may be suffering from whiplash, contact us at CCSI for a consultation with one of our spine specialists.