Close look on whiplash

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Whiplash is an injury that arises once the neck is forcibly jolted or snapped after an accident. The intervertebral joints, ligaments, discs, nerve roots and cervical muscles might end up damaged. Neck injuries include strained tendons and muscles, torn ligaments and herniated discs.

Generally, whiplash is brought about by abrupt jerking movement of the head in backward or forward motions. The injury can arise after a vehicular accident, sports injury, falls or sustaining an abrupt jolt to the head which leads to damage to the soft tissues in the neck.

What are the signs?

The indications of whiplash might not manifest until 1-2 days after sustaining the injury. Once the symptoms arise, it typically includes:

Neck pain and rigidity in the front and back part that might worsen if the head is turned right or left.
  • Headache
  • Neck pain and rigidity in the front and back part that might worsen if the head is turned right or left
  • Low back pain
  • Shoulder pain or amidst the shoulder blades
  • Jaw pain
  • Pain or numbness in the arm and/or hand
  • Dizziness
  • Blurry vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty with concentration or remembering
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Tingling sensation in the arms or shoulders
  • Depression
  • Memory loss

Management of whiplash

In the previous years, whiplash is often managed with immobilization with a cervical collar. Nevertheless, the current management is to promote early movement instead of immobilization.

Application of ice is suggested during the initial 24 hours after the injury and followed by gentle active movement.

Other treatment options for whiplash include:

  • Muscle relaxants
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Exercises
  • Antidepressants
  • Massage
  • Stretching regimen
  • Application of heat
  • Traction exercises
  • Physical therapy
  • Injections
  • Chiropractic spinal manipulation
  • Electrical nerve stimulation with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on whiplash is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the signs and how the injury is managed, register for a first aid and CPR course with Mississauga First Aid.

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