Whiplash Injury and Neck Strain

“Whiplash” is a term that is used to describe a range of injuries that occur in the neck resulting from a sudden jerking of the neck forward or backwards. Whiplash is commonly associated with motor vehicle accidents when a vehicle is hit in the rear resulting in a sudden acceleration and deceleration and jerking of the neck forward and/or backwards. Any impact or force that causes the head to jerk forward and/or backwards, however, can result in whiplash injury.

Symptoms of whiplash can result from injury to a number of structures in the neck, including bones, the discs between the vertebrae, nerves, ligaments and muscles.

What are the Symptoms of Whiplash Injury?

Symptoms of whiplash injury are numerous and can include:

  • Pain and aching in the neck
  • Referred pain to the shoulders
  • Numbness and tingling sensation in the arms and sometimes legs
  • Headaches (usually at the base of the skull that radiate to the forehead)
  • Decreased range of motion and tightness in the neck

Diagnosis and Treatment

Whiplash injuries for the most part can be diagnosed through a thorough patient history and physical examination from your doctor. Most symptoms improve with time and sometimes medications such as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories (NSAID’s) like Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or Naproxen (Aleve) can help with pain and swelling. Prescription medications such as prescription NSAID’s and muscle relaxants are sometimes beneficial. Most medications have side effects and should not be used unless specifically directed or prescribed by your doctor.

Current research shows that active mobilization and postural modifications through Physical Therapy results in a faster recovery. Restraints with neck collars are not recommended for whiplash type injury.

The term “Trigger Point” is used to describe very tight bands of muscle that spasm and can be painful. Trigger points can occur independently of whiplash injury and can also be seen with whiplash injury. Trigger point injection is a simple procedure done in the office and makes use of a small needle and anesthetic to break up the tight muscle bands and improve pain from muscle spasm.

When symptoms of whiplash last more than 6 months after trauma the term ‘Whiplash Syndrome’ is used.

At Oasis Interventional Spine Care diagnostic procedures are offered which can determine the specific source of whiplash induced neck pain and allow for optimal treatment. Minimally invasive procedures such as steroid injections can help reduce disc related neck pain while a neurotomy procedure can successfully reduce pain from an injured facet joint.