Whiplash is a generic term applied to injuries of the neck or back that are caused when the neck or back is suddenly and/or violently jolted in one direction and then another. This whip-like movement causes a sprain/strain and/or tearing of the supporting ligaments and muscles of the spine causing joint damage, inflammation and swelling.
The most common causes of whiplash are motor vehicle accidents, falls, sports injuries and work injuries. In the summer we increase our odds of motor vehicle accidents due to more people traveling, which increases the amount of traffic on the road. Water sports such as tubing, water skiing, wakeboarding, knee boarding and surfing are all common summer activities where people experience whiplash injuries. Whiplash also may occur in summer sport leagues such as baseball, softball, volleyball, tennis, golf, soccer, basketball, kickball, etc.
What are the common signs and symptoms of whiplash?
• The most common symptoms of whiplash are pain, stiffness, swelling and inflammation.
• Headache, especially at the base of the skull, is also a common symptom associated with neck injury.
• The pain and stiffness with neck whiplash injuries may extend down into the shoulders and arms, upper back and even the upper chest. You may also feel pain in your jaw.
• Symptoms of concern if they persist are difficulty swallowing, nausea and blurred vision.
• Other symptoms include irritability, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.
• Symptoms usually develop 2 to 48 hours after injury.
How is whiplash treated?
• Staying active as long as the injury is stable.
• Bracing/Immobilization if the injury is not stable.
• Ice and/or heat are often used to help control pain, reduce swelling and inflammation, and reduce muscle spasms.
• Physical therapy modalities, such as electrical stimulation and/or ultrasound.
• Active-care program of exercise and stretching.
• Spinal manipulation and/or mobilization performed by a chiropractor.