What Is Whiplash?

The neck is a very important part of the body, supporting the head and housing arteries that supply blood to the brain. Whiplash is a neck injury that can occur during an accident, such as a car crash or any other high-impact injury. When automobile accidents cause the head to jerk forward or backward, the neck may suffer a grievous strain because this force stretches and tears the tendons and muscles located in the neck. The resultant strain is what is sometimes referred to as whiplash.

While accidents, such as car crashes, are the most common causes of whiplash, athletes suffer from whiplash as well, often from contact sports such as soccer and football.

Whiplash is not the only type of injury commonly sustained in an auto accident.  Headaches, concussion, shoulder pain, numbness in the arms and hands, back pain, leg pain, blurred vision and ringing in the ears are all common post car accident symptoms.

Differentiating a Sprain and a Strain

As already pointed out, whiplash is basically a strain. However, the terms strain and sprain are often used interchangeably while they have completely different meanings.

While neck strains result from damage to the tendons or muscles as well as bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones; neck sprains are caused by the stretching of the ligaments- the tissues connecting the bones to each other.

All in all, the difference between a neck sprain and a neck strain need not be of much significance since the two are caused by the same agents and treated in the same manner.

Symptoms of Whiplash

The symptoms of a whiplash are often easy to notice and are sometimes excruciating and hard to ignore. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Headaches, sometimes at the base of the skull and radiating towards the forehead
  • Pain and tightness of the neck where the muscles affected feel hard or knotted
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Pain or stiffness when tilting your neck
  • Shoulder and arm pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Numbness in the arms and hands

Depending on the severity of the blow, these pains may be immediate or delayed. Even worse, the blow may result in a concussion as is characterized by persistent headaches marked by drowsiness, nausea, memory loss and repeated episodes of disorientation.  If left untreated, a whiplash injury can cause arthritis and degeneration over time.

 How Is It Diagnosed?

Once you see your chiropractor, he will take you through a thorough examination of your entire spine and take x-rays as indicated. Your chiropractor will evaluate where the damage is while looking for tightness, tenderness, restricted motion. He or she will check your posture and spinal alignment.

How Is It Treated?

Once the chiropractor has assessed the injury, he or she will choose a course of treatment best suited to your case.  Generally, chiropractic care involves chiropractic adjustments, also called spinal manipulation, to correct specific vertebral injuries.  Additionally, your chiropractor may utilize therapy modalities such as high voltage galvanism, ultrasound, cold laser and more.

Often your chiropractor will recommend icing to reduce the pain and the inflammation, especially immediately after an injury. Short term drug therapy is also a treatment option for whiplash and it is important you follow the recommendations of your chiropractor. The usual choices are the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen and ibuprofen. It is important to remember that these drugs could also have side effects, so you should ensure you do not use them regularly. There are also instances where neck braces would help, especially where the blow greatly compromised the stability of the neck to an extent that it needs regular support.

Helping With The Recovery

Whiplash should begin to heal following the treatment plans prescribed by your chiropractor.  You can escalate the healing process and get back to your former health condition faster by following the rehabilitation plan he will outline for you.  These often involve gentle stretching and strengthening exercises that increase in their intensity as you continue to feel better.