Whiplash is most commonly associated with car accidents, and this is due to the sudden acceleration forward of the head and deceleration backward. It causes damage to the ligments and tendons of the neck that support the cervical vertebrae. The cervical vertebrae are 7 bones that make up the bony structure of the neck. The first two vertebrae, C1 and C2, are called the atlas and the axis. C1 is called the atlas because it holds the weight of the head.
C2 is called the axis because it allows for lateral movement of the skull. The motion of whiplash strains the finely tuned structures that support these seven vertebrae. Most whiplash is self-limiting, and it tends to resolve in a few weeks. However, sometimes the pain can last for much longer, and it can turn into a chronic pain issue.
At SoCal Pain Center, neck pain and whiplash are common injuries that we treat. We can recommend exercises, medications, and surgery that can treat the pain caused by whiplash or any other neck injury. We have an enthusiastic group of pain management specialists – from a pain psychologist to a pain doctor to a chiropractor – and we are dedicated to using the least invasive course possible to resolve your condition.
Although most neck pain and whiplash result from a car injury, you can get whiplash or neck pain in many other ways. For instance, physical abuse can harm the neck and cause the whip-like motion of the head. In particular, shaking someone back and forth, such as an infant, can strain the muscles and ligaments of the neck, causing whiplash. Another probable cause is contact sports. When a football player is hit, his neck can snap back then quickly forward on his way towards the ground.
Well-known quarterback Peyton Manning suffered from serious neck injury while playing sports, but it was not a whiplash type injury. Instead, with the repetitive motion of throwing, ignoring signals from his body, and falling awkwardly on his arm, Manning suffered injury to the cervical vertebrae and discs between them. He used stem cell procedures, spinal fusion, and intense rehabilitation to overcome his injury and play football again.
Surprisingly, if you are female, you are more at risk for whiplash. This may be due to the lack of strength and conditioning in the neck muscles of females. Men typically have stronger muscles in the neck and may be better able to protect the spine from the whip movements in a car accident or other inciting incident.
Neck pain and stiffness of the neck muscles are the most common manifestations of whiplash. You may also experience blurred vision, dizziness, and fatigue. One of the most common signs that differentiate whiplash from other neck pain is the presence of a headache. With whiplash, you will feel pain at the base of your skull, and this is often a sign that the whiplash needs treatment.
Other symptoms of chronic whiplash include trouble concentrating, trouble with memory, and ringing in the ears. You may experience difficulty sleeping and feel irritable. In general, whiplash is a painful but largely benign condition. You should see a doctor if you experience numbness or tingling in your arms, pain that spreads to your shoulder and arms, or difficulty moving your head.
These are signs that you have a more complicated condition, such as cervical disc herniation, a pinched nerve, or possible menigitis, and these options need to be investigated by a medical professional.
The primary treatment for uncomplicated whiplash is medication. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, are often enough to ease the pain of whiplash and help you to recover. This is because these over the counter medications reduce the swelling of the neck muscles, and the action of the medication is often enough to allow the neck to heal independently.
Occasionally, you may need an injection of a pain medication directly into the painful muscles, and this treatment brings the powerful pain blocking agents directly to the site of the injury. Muscle relaxants, such as baclofen, are also helpful to ease muscle stiffness.
Physical therapy is another important component of treating whiplash. Ice is used in conjunction with NSAIDs to reduce swelling, and it is typically used in the early stages of the injury. Heat is more important after the inital insult, and it can help reduce stiffness and aid blood flow to the neck.
Ultrasound treatments can be used, as it decreases the swelling in the neck and increases healing blood flow.
Chiropractic techniques, such as an adjustment of the cervical vertebrae, can help to relieve the pressure of the vertebrae or discs on nerve roots. Whiplash is not often treated with the large foam collar anymore. Immobiliation leads to deconditioning of the muscles of the neck. Collars are generally only worn for three hours at a time or while sleeping, and this is only if other methods fail to produce results.
Are you suffering from the pain of whiplash? Do you need someone who understands how to treat this all too common condition?
The SoCal Pain Center has a dedicated, caring staff of pain management, chiropractic, and physical therapy specialists that can help to ease your pain.