Whiplash Injury

whiplash injury

A whiplash neck sprain are generally associated with accidents. It is advised with these sprains to get it thoroughly checked from your physician. Generally, the symptoms ease and go without any specific treatment. It is best to keep the neck active and moving. If required, painkillers could be taken.

What are whiplash neck sprain?

They occur when your head is suddenly jolted backwards and forwards (or forwards then backwards) in a whip-like movement, or is suddenly forcibly rotated. The neck muscles and ligaments get sprained due to more than normal (sprain) stretching.

Mostly associated with car accidents. The spine or the spinal cord can get damaged, and can occur with severe accidents, and is quite uncommon.

Who are prone to this injury?

People involved in car accidents are more to have this injury. They develop neck pain (with or without other injuries). It has been seen that women are more prone to develop whiplash sprain than men, as their neck muscles are less strong.

Some people suffer from whiplash injuries quite often even with slow car or minor car crash.

Some sports are known to cause these injuries quite often.

What are the main complaints of a whiplash neck sprain?

  • Pain and stiffness in the neck is the most common complaint. This takes several hours to relieve. Often these become worse on the second day. Turning or bending the neck may be difficult.
  • Pain or stiffness is also felt inshoulders or down the arms and also in the lower and upper back.
  • Headache is also a common symptom.
  • Dizziness, blurred vision, pain in the jaw or pain on swallowing, unusual sensations of the facial skin may occur for a short while, but soon go. One should inform the doctor if they persist.
  • Some people feel tired and irritable for a few days and find it difficult to concentrate.

How do you diagnose whiplash sprain?

The diagnosis of whiplash neck sprain can be made by a thorough examination by the doctor, which may include history of the injury and physical examination.After this the doctor can fid out whether this injury would require further investigation or not.

How is whiplash neck sprain treated?

  • Exercising the neck and keep oneself active will help not to stiffen your neck. Care should be taken not start exercising immediately after the injury and let the pain subside and then start with very minimal exercises, after this you gradually increase the range of movement. Every few hours gently move the neck in each direction. Do this several times a day. As far as possible, continue with normal activities.
  • Medicines like painkillers very helpful. Painkillers recommended are Paracetamol, ibuprofen,diclofenac or naproxen.  Some people with stomach ulcers, asthma, high blood pressure, kidney failure, or heart failure may not be able to take anti-inflammatory painkillers.A stronger painkiller such as codeine is an option if anti-inflammatories do not suit or do not work well. Codeine is often taken in addition to paracetamol.

A muscle relaxant such as diazepam is occasionally prescribed for a few days if your neck muscles become very tense and make the pain worse.

  • Other treatmentsadvised include:
    • A good posture when sitting at work. (That is, not with your head flexed forward with a stooped back.) Sit upright.
    • A firm-supporting pillow seems to help some people when sleeping. Try not to use more than one pillow.
    • Physiotherapist may advise various treatments if the pain is not settling. These include traction, heat, manipulation, etc. However, what is often most helpful is the advice a physiotherapist can give on exercises to do at home

When should you go back to the doctor?

  • If the pain becomes worse.
  • If the pain persists beyond 4-6 weeks.
  • If other symptoms develop such as loss of feeling (numbness), weakness, or persistent pins and needles in part of an arm or hand. These may indicate irritation to or pressure on a nerve emerging from the spinal cord.
  • Other pain-relieving techniques may be tried if the pain becomes chronic (persistent). Chronic neck pain is also sometimes associated with anxiety and depression which may also need to be treated.

How to prevent whiplash neck sprains?

Modern cars are increasingly designed to minimise the impact of collisions on the neck. However, all cars include head restraints on car seats which may prevent some whiplash sprains. The head restraint should be as high as the top of the head. This may stop the head from jolting backwards in a car crash. However, up to 3 in 4 head restraints are not correctly adjusted. Head restraints may make a journey less comfortable when they are correctly adjusted as they will not allow your head to lie back. However, if you have had a whiplash neck sprain, you may be more particular about correctly adjusting the head restraint for yourself and for other passengers.

In the event of an imminent car crash - if you see a car coming up behind you - then, if possible, push your head backwards against the head restraint and your back into the seat. This may minimise the jolting effect on your neck.

What is the outlook (prognosis) after a whiplash neck sprain?

This will depend on the severity of the sprain, but the outlook is good in most cases. Symptoms often begin to improve after a few days. Most people make a full recovery within a few weeks. However, in a small number of people, some symptoms persist long-term.


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