|Whiplash is condition
caused by injury to the soft-tissue structures of the cervical
spine, or neck region. Usually whiplash is a strain of the
muscles or sprain of the ligaments that move and support
the spine and head. Often whiplash occurs after a sudden,
unexpected movement of extension and flexion of the neck,
most commonly during a car crash. This can also be the result
of sleeping or holding the neck in an awkward position.
I get a neck strain?
|The neck is prone to a whiplash type of injury
because of the demands placed on the cervical spine. The
cervical vertebrae are connected with ligaments and supported
Together, these structures must provide our heads with support
and allow a wide range of motions. These demands make our
necks prone to whiplash or neck strain injury. When the
muscles or ligaments are injured, and the demands of the
cervical spine are compromised, and the resulting pain quickly
interferes with our daily lives. That's why whiplash injuries
are so problematic.
|How do I treat whiplash?
|A brief period of resting the neck muscles
will help alleviate the initial pain and spasm of the neck
muscles after whiplash. Allowing the muscles and ligaments
around the cervical spine to rest and recover is an important
aspect of treatment. However, prolonged rest may be ill-advised,
because of resulting stiffness. If resting does not alleviate
symptoms of whiplash, you should have further evaluation
by your doctor.
A few other simple steps may help your neck strain symptoms:
- Apply ice packs and heat pads intermittently
- Try an anti-inflammatory medication
- Consider physical therapy for stretching and exercises
All treatment of neck strain injuries should be guided by
a physician. If it is clear that your symptoms are due to
a simple neck strain or ligament sprain, then these steps
should help your condition. It is important, however, to
know the cause of the symptoms, because more than just whiplash
can cause neck pain.
|What other than whiplash could be causing my neck pain?
| There are many other conditions
that can cause neck pain, some of which are serious and
require medical attention. While the most common cause of
these symptoms are whiplash or neck strain, there are other
signs to watch for that could indicate other problems:
Weakness of the hands or arms
These symptoms may be due to compression of the
spinal cord or the spinal nerves which exit the cord. Some
causes of this include ruptured discs and spinal stenosis.
Numbness or abnormal sensations in the hands and
Again, these symptoms can be cause by injury to
the spinal cord or nerves. If these symptoms are present,
then you should have further evaluation.
Pain accompanied by unusual weight changes or fevers
It is important that neck pain accompanied by these
symptoms, as well as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite,
fevers, chills, or sweats, be further evaluated. While it
is unusual, these can be the first signs of infections or
Lack of improvement over time
Any problem such as this that does not improve
over time should be further evaluated. If the initial diagnosis
is whiplash, but the neck continues to be problematic, further
evaluation should take place.
There are chronic conditions (such as arthritis and osteoporosis)
and acute problems (such as fractures) that can cause symptoms
similar to a neck strain. If your symptoms worsen instead
of improve, or if they are not relieved with rest, you should
see a doctor.