What is Whiplash?

Whiplash injuries occur commonly motor vehicle accidents, falls or other trauma to the head and neck, or any injury that involves a rapid flexion and extension of the neck. Immediately following the injury the individual will usually experience muscle spasm, stiffness in the neck and soreness. In most cases the pain, soreness and stiffness will improve with rest and conservative therapy. If symptoms persist then future workup then the initial assessment should be performed.

Whiplash results in pain and restricted range of motion in the neck due to injury of the soft tissues (muscles, ligament, tendons, etc), discs and joints in the neck. Whiplash is often accompanied by muscle spasm and swelling in the neck region, and headaches. Symptoms usually come on immediately or may present after several hours. In general, the faster the symptoms occur after the injury may correlate to more damage.

How is Whiplash treated?

In order to treat whiplash a comprehensive history, physical exam and any necessary imaging (x-ray, CT, MRI) or diagnostic studies are performed. The acute treatment of whiplash is rest, ice, medications (acetaminophen, anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxers, and pain medications), modalities and physical therapy. If pain continues or any associated neurologic symptoms exist (numbness or weakness) then further evaluation and testing should be done. If there are significant findings on imaging, then these issues need to be treated accordingly. Target injection therapy such as trigger point injections, facet joint blocks or cervical epidural steroid injections are helpful to facilitate healing, functional improvement and relieve pain.

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