Whiplash is the stretching or tearing of neck muscles or tendons due to extreme force or impact. The rapid motion of the neck either backwards or forwards strains the neck causing pain, discomfort and, in some cases, immobility.
Although most commonly associated with auto accidents, whiplash can result from any trauma of the neck, including a sports accident or forceful physical contact.
Signs & Symptoms
Whiplash symptoms generally occur within 24 hours of the injury and typically include:
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Loss of neck mobility
- Tenderness in the shoulder, upper back or arms
- Difficulty concentrating
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
A physical exam and imaging are used to diagnose whiplash. A physician will assess the range of motion in the neck and shoulders, neck tenderness as well as reflex stimulation. An imaging test, such as an x-ray, CT scan or MRI, might also be used to determine the extent of the injury.
Treatment varies depending on the severity of whiplash. Over-the-counter pain medications, rest and heat or ice application is recommended for minor whiplash injuries. Prescription medications and injections are often effective in managing more severe whiplash pain. Physical therapy and daily exercise are recommended in regaining range of motion, decreasing stiffness and strengthening the injured muscles.