If you happen to experience a tightening in your neck and shoulders after a motor vehicle/personal injury or any other incident that snapped your head forward or backward, it’s likely you have whiplash injury. The sudden forceful movement of the head stretches and tears the muscles and tendons in the neck beyond their typical range of motion. Also called a neck strain or sprain, whiplash is thought of as a relatively mild condition, but it can cause long-term pain and discomfort. The condition usually resolves within a few weeks or months, but for some people it can last longer and severely limit their activities. Leading multispecialty pain management and rehabilitation centers in Brooklyn, NYC offer effective treatment options to restore function and quality of life.
Here seven important facts about this motor vehicle injury:
What causes whiplash?
Generally, whiplash occurs when your head is rapidly or forcefully thrown backward and then forward. This rapid motion can injure bones in the spine, disks between the bones, ligaments, muscles, nerves and other tissues of the neck. People generally associate whiplash injury with a motor vehicle collision. But it can also happen in contact sports (football tackles and other sports-related collisions) and physical abuse or assault (such as being violently shaken by the shoulders), or being punched.
What are the immediate signs and symptoms?
Signs and symptoms of this neck injury may appear immediately (within 24 hours of the injury) or after several days. Common symptoms include –
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Tingling or numbness in the arms
- Sleep disturbances
- Muscle spasms
- Memory disturbances
- Headache (most often starting at the base of the skull)
- Fatigue and dizziness
- Decreased range of motion in the neck
- Blurred vision
Are some people more likely to get whiplash?
Some people are more prone to have whiplash after an accident. Potential risk factors include – age, having a history of neck pain, and having being hit by a vehicle from behind.
How do you know you have whiplash?
If you have serious difficulties moving your head, neck and arms and doing simple tasks, it could be whiplash. Imaging tests such as x-ray, computerized tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be recommended. However, most people will have normal imaging results because the injury occurs within structures too small to be seen in these tests. This is true even if you are experiencing pain. However, these tests will help to identify other conditions that could be making your neck pain worse. Symptoms remain the primary way to diagnose whiplash.
How long does whiplash last?
In most cases, most of the pain goes away within a few days and even more within 3-4 months. However, studies have found that between 12-50 percent of people experience persistent neck pain even after a year. People are most likely to experience persistent pain if they experienced pain right from the beginning (after the accident), have neurological symptoms such as memory loss and have pain that shoots into the arm and fingers.
How is this neck injury treated?
Mild or moderate cases of whiplash injury can be easily treated at home using medications, a cervical collar (brace), ice or heat application, or other simple remedies. However, getting immediate medical attention is important for persisting symptoms: trouble in moving the head or arms, neck pain, numbness, or tingling sensations in the arms, neck or legs and specific issues with the bladder or bowels. Multispecialty healthcare centers in Brooklyn, NYC offer several effective nonsurgical treatments for the condition such as physical therapy, chiropractic care, cervical epidural injections and pain medications.
How can whiplash be prevented?
Whiplash injuries are usually caused by rear end motor-vehicle collisions. Ensure that your car has a properly designed seat. Having a good rated head restraint and adjusting the head restraint properly is also important. Seat belts, airbags, etc., can also provide protection in front and side impact collisions. Practice strengthening exercises to keep your neck muscles strong and supple if you had suffered neck strain before.