Whiplash or acceleration/deceleration injury as it is also known as an injury to the neck, caused by a rapid forward and backward motion of the head.
This occurs most commonly from a car accident, although can also be sustained through sports involving direct contact or a fall onto the head.
Whiplash is basically a neck muscle strain and/or ligament sprain within the neck. The most commonly injured muscles are the Sternocleidomastoid, Levator scapulae, and Longus Colli.
In more severe cases of whiplash, there can also be nerve damage and fractures of various processes of the cervical vertebrae
The patient will feel stiffness and pain in the neck which may not come on immediately at the time of injury but develop over the following 24 to 48 hours. They will likely have a significantly reduced range of movement in the cervical spine (neck) with headaches, dizziness and blurred vision (this should go within 24 hours if they persist consult your doctor). The pain and stiffness can last for just a few days to a few weeks depending on severity.
Watch out for the following:
Severe pain in the back of the head.
Pins and needles or numbness in the shoulders or arms.
All of these symptoms could indicate a more serious injury or concussion. If any of these symptoms are present you should return to the Doctor or hospital.
The main aim of treatment for whiplash is to slowly get the neck moving without making the pain worse.
Keeping the neck still after the first 24 hours is not advised as it will stiffen and cause more pain in the long term.
Gentle exercises to move the neck are strongly encouraged as soon as the pain starts to settle as these encourage normal movement and restore normal function of the neck muscles and ligaments.
Try to gently move your neck in all directions as soon as you are able to, and repeat this every 2 – 3 hours.
Each time, aim to move the neck further to increase its’ overall range of movement but make sure that the exercises are always performed within pain-free limits.
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