Whiplash in Depth
AKA: Whiplash Associated Disorder, WAD
Whiplash Injury Explained
Whiplash is a common cause of neck pain, which can also cause shoulder and arm pain. Occasionally Whiplash occurs as a result of sporting trauma, but more often it is a consequence of an automobile accident. The more correct term for Whiplash is a deceleration injury because it is often caused by the head decelerating in relation to the body, causing damage to the soft tissues of the neck.
The damage caused will depend upon whether the passenger was involved in a head-on or a rear-end collision. In a head-on collision, the neck and head continue to move forward whilst the body is stopped suddenly. The head only stops moving forward when the chin makes contact with the chest. This has the effect of stretching the structures at the back of the neck, namely ligaments and muscles.
In the case of a rear-end collision, the head and neck are thrown back in relation to the body and the stretch is applied to muscles at the front of the neck. Joints at the back of the neck called facet joints are compressed and can also be damaged.
In either of these two methods of injury, if the force applied is severe enough there may be damage to the discs in the neck; the nerves from the spinal cord may be damaged, blood vessels may be damaged and there may even be bone injury.
Whiplash Signs & Symptoms
Immediately following the injury the neck pain may not be too severe. However, neck pain and neck stiffness gradually increase, usually reaching its worst point the day after the incident occurs. There may also be shoulder pain and pain down the back.
If the nerves in the neck have been damaged, the patient may experience tingling or numbness down the arms and hands. The patient may also experience weakness in the arms and hands and may drop objects such as cups. If any of these symptoms develop or become worse, the patient should return to accident and emergency to be checked by a doctor.
Other after-effects of a whiplash injury may include headaches, dizziness, slightly red eyes, facial tingling, hearing problems and throat pain. These are not usually serious, but the patient should always be checked by their doctor.
What you can do
Consult SPORTS THERAPY SCOTLAND
All whiplash type injuries and neck pain should be checked by a doctor in the accident and emergency department. A Soft Collar is usually the first part of treatment for a whiplash injury. This takes the strain of the weight of the head off the ligaments and muscles of the neck.
In the early stages, pain-relieving medication prescribed by a doctor is the most effective form of neck pain relief. Once the doctor is satisfied the damage is restricted to soft tissues, the patient is referred to a qualified therapist for ongoing whiplash treatment.
Soothing Heat Packs can provide neck pain relief. The warmth has a soothing effect and helps to get rid of the neck muscle spasm that is often present.
As soon as neck pain allows, the therapist will encourage the patient to remove the soft collar and begin moving the neck. Although this can be very uncomfortable at first, these exercises are the best way of reducing the neck pain and stiffness.
Following a Whiplash injury, lying down to sleep can often exacerbate neck pain if there is insufficient support. A Neck Pain Pillow can provide contoured support for the head and neck, allowing the user to rest the muscles of the neck and get a pain free night of sleep.
Make sure the head restraints in your car are in the appropriate position to support the head in the event of a rear-end collision. Decreasing driving speed and leaving adequate distance between you and the car in front is an effective whiplash prevention strategy because breaking suddenly is a major cause of rear-end collisions.
All neck pain conditions treated at Injury Clinic in Stirling.