Whiplash (Neck Sprain)

Caused by bending the neck beyond its normal range of motion, damage from whiplash can cause pain and inflammation to the muscles and ligaments in the neck. Extreme conditions may include cervical spine injury.

What You Need To Know About Whiplash

What is Whiplash?

Whiplash is a catch-all term for all of the associated conditions that arise after a force causes your neck to wrench back and forth violently. When bent past its normal range of motion, your vertebrae — and related muscles and ligaments — can become painfully irritated due to injury.

Many forces can cause whiplash, with rear-end car accidents as one of the most common. But other forceful traumas like sports accidents, physical abuse, and even bumpy amusement park rides can cause whiplash.

Symptoms of whiplash may be slow to materialize, sometimes appearing hours or days after the inciting incident. With proper interventional treatment, many people recover within a few weeks from whiplash. However, other people may experience chronic neck pain and other long-lasting complications.

Book an appointment at the Resurgens Spine Center to learn more about whiplash.


What Causes Whiplash?

Whiplash happens when the neck suffers a sudden and unexpected movement. This movement jolts the neck beyond its normal boundaries and causes your ligaments and tendons to tear. The resulting damage causes your neck to experience tenderness and irritation that can take several months to heal.

Although there is no universal cause of whiplash, there are several commons causes, including:

  • Being involved in a car wreck

  • Suffering violent blows from being punched, or shaken

  • Sports with lots of contact like football, karate, and boxing

  • Blunt force trauma

  • Horseback riding

  • Bicycle accidents

Being diagnosed with whiplash requires proper consultation from a spine physician.

Whiplash Symptoms

Symptoms of whiplash usually appear within the first 24 hours after the incident. Many people report that their symptoms increase in severity after their injury.

Whiplash can be very painful. You may feel pain and stiffness in your neck at the time of your injury, or it may begin days later. You may also have pain in your shoulders, back, and arms. You may not be able to twist or bend your neck normally. You may have headaches and dizziness. Some people also experience complications with hearing, vision or memory. These can become chronic problems.

Other common symptoms associated with whiplash include:

  • Fatigue

  • Jaw pain

  • Weakness in the arm

  • Tinnitus

  • Visual illusions

  • Muscle spasms

  • Depression

  • Diminished memory, irritability

Your doctor will be able to diagnose your symptoms.

How is Whiplash Diagnosed?

A thorough assessment of your condition is essential for planning your treatment. During your physical evaluation, your doctor will ask questions about your health and the triggering experience that led to your pain. Your doctor will evaluate your pain areas and may ask you to do any activity that irritates your condition.

Next, your doctor will utilize sophisticated diagnostic imaging technology to examine your soft tissue. This screening will involve using MRI and other diagnostic screening technology to let your doctor inspect the affected discs, muscles, and ligaments. These screenings will also help rule out conditions like abnormalities or fractures that can also cause whiplash-type symptoms.

No two cases of whiplash are the same, so it follows that every patient should have a treatment program tailored to promote their healing. Your Resurgens physician will be able to use all your assessment information to create a specialized treatment plan for you.

Whiplash Treatment

Treatment for whiplash varies according to the extent of your condition. For milder cases, your doctor may recommend RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) until your symptoms improve.

Your doctor may recommend OTC medication like aspirin or acetaminophen, or they may prescribe painkillers and muscle relaxers to reduce pain. If your doctor prescribes these drugs, please take care with them as they are habit-forming and dangerous.

Physical therapy will help you regain strength and flexibility in your neck as you heal. These exercises and stretches can help improve your recovery time, and may even help prevent you from future neck strains. Some patients will receive neck or spine injections to assist with their healing.

For extreme conditions, your doctor may recommend stabilizing your neck with a foam collar. A foam collar provides your neck with ideal conditions for healing.

As you heal, you can begin exercising again. Your doctor will be able to advise you on proper exercise routines. If you overexert yourself before your whiplash heals, it can exacerbate your condition and cause chronic neck pain.

Trust our physicians to help you get moving again. Book an appointment now with the physicians at Resurgens Spine Center.