Whiplash is what we call an acceleration-deceleration injury and usually occurs with motor vehicle accidents but can also occur from being pushed in the back, during sports accidents or a fall. Whiplash is a type of neck strain, and results from a sudden jerking movement that affects the soft tissues of the neck. These soft tissues include cervical muscles, ligaments and tendons. In some circumstances whiplash can affect and injure the spines intervertebral discs, joints and nerves (spinal nerves). Essentially the underlining mechanism of neck injury associated with whiplash is a sudden jerk movement of the neck and head as it is accelerated and then suddenly decelerated (seat belt etc.). This sudden deceleration causes the neck to be snapped back quickly and this is what causes injury to the neck tissues. Many people associate whiplash to only occur in motor vehicle accidents but whiplash can occur in sports injuries with common sports being boxing, football and gymnastics. Children may also suffer from this in shaken baby syndrome.
Symptoms of neck whiplash
The most common symptoms of whiplash include neck pain, shoulder pain, lower back pain, headache, muscle and joint discomfort and muscle weakness. In more serious cases of whiplash there may be dizziness, vertigo, impaired cognitive function, radicular pain that radiates down the arms to the fingers or between the shoulder blades. Ongoing issues with carpal tunnel syndrome and peripheral nerve disorders have also been reported in the literature.
Treatment of neck whiplash
Whiplash of the neck is a self-limiting condition that usually clears up in a few weeks. Self-limiting means the symptoms clear up on their own. The symptoms of whiplash may take some time to develop 6-24 hours. Whiplash can be acute or chronic. Acute whiplash may still linger for a few months however chronic whiplash can persist for many years. If you suspect that you have a whiplash associated injury is important to have a detailed assessment by a chiropractor or physiotherapist that specialises in this area. At Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C) we specialise the in the diagnosis and treatment of whiplash and its associated disorders and use a range of treatments that are based on the latest clinical guidelines and research.