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Whiplash Injury

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Whiplash injury is caused by combination of flexion and extension of soft tissue in the cervical spine, which involves the muscles, discs, nerves and tendons. Most of the injuries are caused due to sudden collision. Whiplash injuries occur as result of automobile collision, sport injury, fall or assaults.

Types of injury

Typical cervical hypertension injury: Body is thrown forward resulting in hypertension of neck due to head lag. Flexion occurs when the neck has reached the maximum extension.

Rapid deceleration injury: Head is thrown forward with the flexion of cervical spine. The longitudinal distraction and neurological damage may occur due to forward movement causing hypertension in subsequent recoil.

Causes of whiplash injury

  • Frequent cause of whiplash injury is car accident.

  • Contact sport injuries

  • Blows to head from falling object or being assaulted.

  • Using your neck to hold the phone can cause repetitive stress injuries or chronic strain.

  • Child abuse, mostly shaking of the child may result in serious injuries in child's brain and spinal cord.

Symptoms of whiplash injury

These signs and symptoms may occur immediately or later. Sooner after the injury the symptoms develop, greater the chances of serious damage. Most common symptoms are:

  • Neck Pain
  • Neck Swelling
  • Headache
  • Tenderness along the back of the neck
  • Difficulty in moving the neck around
  • Muscle spasm
  • Pain starting from neck into either shoulder or arm
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness, tingling or loss of function in the arms or legs
  • Increased fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Sleep disturbance or irritability in young children
  • Ringing in ears
  • Concentration or memory problems
  • Numbness in the arm and/or hand
  • Neck stiffness
  • Lower back pain
  • Shoulder pain

Diagnosis of whiplash injury

The symptoms of whiplash may resemble other conditions. Diagnosis procedure of whiplash include the following:

Computed Tomography: This technique uses the combination of X-ray and computer technology to produce a cross-sectional view with detailed image of the affected parts of the body. Soft tissue near neck may not be visible in the X-ray.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): It is a diagnostic procedure used to show the detailed images of organs and structure within the body. This diagnostic procedure is combination of large magnets, radio frequencies.

Treatment for whiplash injury

Treatment for whiplash injury has to be determined by the physician based on the following factors ...

  • Medical condition of the patient.
  • Patient's past history
  • Extent of injury
  • Tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies
  • Overall health and age of the patient.

Various treatments Options

  • Muscle relaxing medications
  • Gentle active movement after 24 hours
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Ice applications for the first 24 hours
  • Heat therapy
  • Oral pain relievers and muscle relaxers
  • Immobilization of the neck with a soft cervical collar

Prevention of whiplash injury

Whiplash injury can be avoided by taking necessary precautions.

  • Wear a seat belt properly and adjust the headrest to proper height while driving.

  • Parents need proper counseling and education about child abuse as it can cause whiplash injuries in children through excessive or violent shaking.

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