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Whiplash - Common Symptoms and Treatment

Updated on March 11, 2015
Whiplash and Whiplash Associated DIsorder are common conditions following a traffic collision
Whiplash and Whiplash Associated DIsorder are common conditions following a traffic collision | Source

Introduction

Whiplash is an injury that occurs to a person's back, normally in the upper back / neck area, as a result of a sudden jolt causing the head to move rapidly backwards and forwards. The most common cause of whiplash incidents is as the result of a road traffic incident, especially those involving a collision where the car is hit from behind.

It is estimated that whiplash injuries cost the US economy up to $30 billion a year due to sick leave, disability, lost work productivity, damages, medical costs and litigation.

Whiplash can involve injury both to the bones of the spine itself and to the ligaments, muscles and soft tissues around the spine and in the neck. Although whiplash can be an unpleasant and uncomfortable injury that requires rest and rehabilitation to recover from, however it is not life threatening.

Understanding the symptoms and treatment of whiplash and Whiplash Associated Disorder can help the people affected by it to better deal with their condition. This article summarizes what whiplash is, the most common symptoms and treatments.

Symptoms from whiplash

Generally, symptoms from whiplash can be separated into two categories:

1. Symptoms from whiplash itself.
2. Symptoms from Whiplash Associated Disorder.

Symptoms from whiplash itself

Symptoms from whiplash include the following; these generally occur within 24 hours of an incident that could cause whiplash (commonly an automobile accident) but they can take up to a week or more to arise:

  • Pain in the head, neck, shoulders, back and spine.
  • Decreased range of motion of your head and neck.
  • Stiffness in the neck, shoulders and arms.
  • Tenderness, especially in and around the neck.
  • Headaches, especially in the base of the skull, dizziness and fatigue
  • Jaw pain.
  • Arm pain and weakness.
  • Disturbances in eyesight and hearing including tinnitus (ringing in the ears)

The injury is most common when a car is hit from behind
The injury is most common when a car is hit from behind | Source

Symptoms from Whiplash Associated Disorder

Whiplash Associated Disorder can occur among patients that have had whiplash for an extended period of time. This disorder tends to manifest as neurological and psychological symptoms including:

  • Mild depression
  • Mood swings
  • Anger, frustration and irritability
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Drug dependency (prescription or recreational)
  • Insomnia
  • Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome

Whiplash Associated Disorder can be a delayed reaction to receiving the injury
Whiplash Associated Disorder can be a delayed reaction to receiving the injury | Source
Although neck collars are still used to treat whiplash, they are not always considered to be the most effective treatment
Although neck collars are still used to treat whiplash, they are not always considered to be the most effective treatment | Source

Treatment for whiplash

There are various treatments for whiplash that vary in their effectiveness.

Although it was originally believed that a soft cervical (neck) collar was the best way to treat whiplash by restricting head and neck movement, it is now generally thought that encouraging gentle movement and physical therapy of the neck and spine is actually more beneficial to a rapid recovery.

This can include gentle rotational exercises and other education and movement as directed by a physical therapist or doctor.

These exercises help to strengthen muscles to support the neck and spine. Painkillers, heat and ice can also be used to help reduce discomfort and provide pain relief; additionally, ice will help to control and reduce swelling.

Whiplash Associated Disorder can be treated through counselling, therapy, antidepressants and the like.

Whiplash injury animation

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´╗┐In Closing

In all cases, diagnosis and treatment of whiplash and its associated symptoms should be made by a medical professional.

Whiplash is easily treatable via exercises and pain medication and quick diagnosis combined with an effective treatment plan can help you recover from your symptoms quickly.

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