Whiplash occurs once an abrupt movement forces the head back and forth in a movement similar to a whip. The sudden movement can damage the bone and soft tissues in and around the neck. The symptoms of a whiplash injury can start right away or several days later after the accident.
Symptoms of whiplash
If an individual is involved in a vehicular accident, it is important to be familiar with the symptoms that will manifest. This injury includes the following symptoms:
- Neck pain
- Stiffness of the spine
- Pain in the back
- Shoulder pain
Causes of whiplash
Vehicular accidents have been considered as the main cause of whiplash injury. In most cases, it is usually a rear crash or an abrupt stop that causes the heads of the driver and the passengers to move in a forward and backward manner. Understandably, this tends to go beyond the normal range of motion of the neck. Take note that this strains the ligaments, muscles and the connective tissues in the neck. In some cases, it can even injure the vertebrae.
How to prevent whiplash injury
With the help of headrests, they are specifically designed to minimize the risk of whiplash. The headrests must be adjusted in the correct position. It should be high enough to cushion the head and prevent the backward whip-like motion. In case the headrest is positioned too low, it is useless.
Diagnosing a whiplash injury
Whiplash can be minor and would only case discomfort during the healing process. In some cases, it is important to consult a health care provider in order to be treated appropriate. The warning signs to watch out for include a great force involved in the crash, loss of consciousness following the injury, severe pain in the neck that persists, pain that goes away but returns again, numbness in the arm, shoulder pain and pain when the hand is moved. Take note that these signs indicate that the individual sustained more than just the whiplash injury. It is vital to consult a doctor or seek emergency assistance if a child or infant is suspected of having a whiplash injury after an accident.
First aid care for whiplash
The individual must rest the neck after the vehicular accident. Instruct the individual to avoid lifting or performing any activity that will strain the neck muscles for 2-3 weeks. This is the usual time period that it will take for the injury to properly heal. Backward tilting of the head must also be avoided since it adds pressure on the neck vertebrae.
A heating pad or bottle with hot water can be applied on the sore area in the neck. This will help ease the pain as well as relax the neck muscles. It will also improve the flow of blood to the area in order to speed up the healing process. Over-the-counter pain medications and NSAIDs can help relieve pain temporarily.
The medical treatment for whiplash injury that is accompanied with muscle spasms involves the administration of muscle relaxants. In most cases, steroids are given intravenously early during the whiplash injury.
Lidocaine is also given for chronic neck pain. A soft collar is also used around the neck for 2-3 weeks. This cervical collar is specifically designed to minimize the strain off the neck muscles and joint to promote the healing process without re-injury.
Physical therapy is also used in order to help during the recovery period. It will help minimize the pain and restores the normal range of motion of the neck. This will involve a visit to a chiropractor.