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Whiplash Injury: Everything that You Need to Know

What is Whiplash Injury?

Cervical acceleration-deceleration (CAD) syndrome is the medical term for whiplash. Whiplash injuries are spinal injuries caused by a sudden and forceful back-and-forth movement of the neck as a result of an external force. Due to this sudden movement, the neck’s soft tissues (muscles and ligaments) are stretched beyond their normal range of motion.

The symptoms of a whiplash injury might not appear for a few day. So, it is essential to pay attention to any physical changes in the body. Whiplash is a minor condition, although it can cause discomfort and long-term pain.

What are the symptoms of a Whiplash Injury?

Symptoms of a whiplash injury usually appear within 24 hours of the accident. Sometimes, they may appear immediately. In some cases, the symptoms may appear after several hours or days. They can last for many weeks.

Whiplash is a painful condition that is often hard to ignore. Some common signs and symptoms of a whiplash injury are:

  • Pain and stiffness in the neck
  • Dizziness and headaches, particularly at the base of the skull
  • Constant exhaustion
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue

Some less common signs and symptoms of a whiplash injury include:

  • Problems with memory and concentration
  • Irritability
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Difficulty to sleep well
  • Persistent chronic pain in the shoulders, neck, or head

What causes Whiplash Injuries?

Whiplash is a condition that occurs when the head is forcefully thrown backward and then forward. The bones in the spine, discs between the bones, ligaments, muscles, nerves, and other tissues of the neck may all be injured by this motion.

Some common causes of a whiplash injury are as follows:

  • Car accidents, rear-end collisions of the cars
  • Playing contact sports such as karate, football, and boxing
  • Physical abuse or assault, when you are shaken or punched
  • Horseback riding
  • Bungee jumping
  • Cycling injuries
  • Falls in which the head suddenly jerks backward
  • Blows to the head with a hard and heavy object

How to diagnose a Whiplash Injury?

If you have any of the following signs, you should seek medical attention:

  • Neck stiffness or pain that goes away and then reappears
  • Discomfort, pain and numbness in your arms, shoulders and legs
  • Weakness in a particular region of the leg or arm
  • Any problems with your bowels or bladders
  • Severe neck pain

When you visit the doctor, he will most likely ask you questions about your injury, such as how it occurred, where you are experiencing pain, and whether the pain is shooting, sharp or dull. The doctor may also perform a physical exam to assess your range of motion and search for areas of tenderness.

The doctor might recommend you an X-ray to make sure that your pain isn’t linked to any other type of injury or degenerative condition like arthritis. Other tests, such as CT scans and MRIs, will allow your doctor to determine any soft tissue, spinal cord, or nerve damage or inflammation.

Treatment for Whiplash Injury

Whiplash is a relatively easy condition to treat. Given time, whiplash can recover on its own. To recover from a whiplash injury, you should do the following:

Take painkillers or other drugs:

If your doctor recommends it, pain may be relieved with medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve). However, these medications can have certain side effects too. You should never use them on a daily basis unless your doctor clearly instructs you to do so. You should consult with your doctor first before taking them if you take other medications or have any medical problems. More serious injuries may require prescription muscle relaxants and painkillers to reduce muscular spasms. Read more here

Apply ice to your neck:

You should apply ice to your neck to relieve pain, discomfort and swelling. You should do it for 15 minutes after every 2-3 hours for about 2-3 days. To avoid skin damage and injury, wrap the ice in a thin towel or sheet.

Use a foam collar or neck brace:

To keep your neck stable, you might also be suggested to use a foam collar or a neck brace by the doctor. However, the collars should not be worn for more than three hours. They should also be only used for the first few days after an injury. They are not recommended to be used for a long term because they can weaken the muscles in the neck.

Doctors and Chiropractors also recommend using specialized pillows to sleep comfortably with whiplash injury. It is important that you get enough sleep for better recovery from whiplash injury.

Apply moist heat to your neck:

You should apply moist heat to your neck after icing it for at least 2-3 days first. After the initial swelling has subsided, apply heat to your neck. Take a warm bath or use wet, warm towels.

Get a massage:

Massage can aid in the delivery of more oxygen to the muscles, allowing them to recover more quickly. Massage can also assist in the removal of scar tissue from an old car accident injury. A good massage will help you relieve the tension in the neck muscles, making them more loose and malleable.


You will most likely be prescribed a list of stretching and movement exercises to do at home by your doctor. These exercises will help you regain range of motion in your neck and get you back to your daily activities. Before exercising, it is recommended that you should apply moist heat to the sore area or take a warm shower. Some common exercises include:

  1. Neck rotation in both directions
  2. Rolling your shoulders
  3. Tilting your head from side to side
  4. Bending your neck towards the chest

Physical Therapy:

If you’re having constant whiplash pain or need help with range-of-motion exercises, your doctor might recommend you to see a physical therapist. Physical therapy can make you feel better and it might even save you from being injured again. Your physical therapist will lead you through exercises to help you strengthen your muscles, enhance your posture, and restore your normal range of motion. The required number of physical therapy sessions vary from person to person. Your physical therapist may also design a home workout routine for you.

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