Whiplash is a soft tissue injury to the neck, usually caused by sudden forceful jerk commonly occurring as a result of an automobile accident, sports injuries, or an accidental fall. Sometimes whiplash may also be referred to as neck strain, neck sprain or hyperextension injury.
Neck pain, stiffness in the neck and headache are the most common symptoms of whiplash. Headache may develop immediately after the injury or after a short period of time. Other symptoms include dizziness, tingling or pricking sensation in the upper extremities, shoulder pain and stiffness, and psychological conditions such as memory loss, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances.
Diagnosis depends on the history of the injury and the symptoms. X-ray of the neck may be taken to make sure there are no fractures or dislocation of the cervical spine. Ct and MRI scans will not show any significant abnormality in the soft tissue or bony structures.
Pain medications, muscle relaxants, bed rest, cervical collar, neck exercises, ice therapy, heat therapy, and physical therapy have been used in the management of symptoms.
Bed rest and use of a soft cervical collar to immobilize the neck, usually results in minimal benefit, and hence early initiation of simple exercises is advised to restore flexibility.
Physical therapy, stretches and strengthening exercises are useful to help strengthen muscles and reduce pain. Surgery is not recommended for whiplash injuries. Symptoms are difficult to resolve despite diligent exercises, and can last more than 12 months without resolution.