Neck and Back Injury

January 25, 2011

Cervical Whiplash Injury

Filed under: Neck Injury — publisher @ 3:14 pm  Tagged , ,

What Is a Cervical Whiplash Injury?

Whiplash injury (also known as neck sprain or neck strain) is a popular nonmedical term for neck injury/cervical injury. Many people use the term to refer to all neck injuries/cervical injuries caused by car accidents in which the neck is forced to rapidly move backward (extension) and then forward (flexion). During that process, the upper cervical vertebrae act as the lash of a whip and the lower cervical vertebrae act as the handle.

Most cervical whiplash injuries involve only the soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, and tendons) in the neck. Severe whiplash injuries may also involve the vertebrae, discs, intervertebral joints, or the spinal cord in the cervical region.

What Are the Common Causes of Whiplash Injury?

Whiplash injury is a common neck injury/cervical injury. It is usually caused by a rear-end motor vehicle collision. For example, a whiplash may occur if your car is suddenly hit by another car from the rear end and your neck is forced to violently move backward and then forward. Heavy-impact sports involving head-on collisions may also cause whiplash injury.

Whiplash injury often occurs at the conjunction of the fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae because of their great mobility.

What are the Symptoms of a Whiplash Injury?

Symptoms of a whiplash injury may include the following.

  • Neck pain present immediately after the injury or several days later
  • Neck stiffness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Abnormal sensation such as burning or prickling (paresthesias)
  • Difficulty swallowing and chewing
  • Shoulder or back pain

Other symptoms may include memory loss, concentration impairment, nervousness, irritability, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and depression.

Are There Treatments for Whiplash Injury?

Treatment options for whiplash injury include pain medicines, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, a cervical collar (may be needed for 2 to 3 weeks), physical therapy, and cervical traction. Depending on the condition, a physician may also recommend heat therapy to help relieve muscle tension. Range-of-motion exercises may also be used to reduce stiffness and increase flexibility.

For severe whiplash injuries involving damages to the intervertebral discs, joints, or spinal cord, surgery may be needed. Physicians usually use X-rays or MRI scans to determine whether or not a whiplash injury has caused vertebral fractures or disc injuries.

What Is the Prognosis of a Cervical Whiplash Injury?

For most patients, the neck and head pain gradually disappears within a few days or weeks after the neck injury/cervical injury. Many patients can fully recover within 3 months after the injury, but some may continue to have residual neck pain and headaches. If symptoms persist or worsen 2 to 4 weeks after the neck injury/cervical injury, patients should go to see a physician for further diagnosis and treatment.


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