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Whiplash is the term for an injury to the neck that occurs when the head and neck are whipped back and forth with some force. This causes the neck to extend beyond its normal range of motion and results in injury to the cervical, or upper, portion of the spine as well as the muscles and ligaments in the neck.  

Whiplash can stretch, sprain, or in some cases, tear the muscles and ligaments in the neck area. It can also damage the vertebrae, or bones, in the spine. This can cause pain in the neck and shoulders, headaches and other symptoms. Some people experience the pain of whiplash immediately after the injury occurs while others may not experience it for days. Whiplash can be very painful so if it happens to you, you will know.

Whiplash is most commonly caused by rear end car collisions that push your head violently forward and backward. It can also be caused by physical contact in sports such as football or during physical contact like a fistfight. Some people suffer whiplash as the result of extreme roller coaster rides.

What are the symptoms of whiplash?

Everyone experiences different symptoms of whiplash and different levels of pain depending upon the severity of the injury. The most common symptoms of whiplash include:

Neck pain: This pain can be generalized and felt in all areas of the neck or it can occur in one specific spot on the neck. Pain also feel as though it is radiating up and down all areas of the neck.

Limited range of motion: Whiplash can make it difficult for you to turn your head and look to the side. It may be painful to move your head slightly from side to side or up and down.

Your neck doesn’t feel stable: Whiplash may make it feel as though your neck can’t hold up your head. This happens because whiplash has stretched the muscles and ligaments in the neck beyond their natural range making them feel weak.

Headache: Whiplash can cause headaches.

Dizziness: Whiplash can cause dizziness that may occur in short intervals or for a longer period of time.

Pain in your shoulders or upper back: Depending upon the severity of the whiplash, you may experience pain in your shoulders that radiates into your upper back. When the soft tissues in the neck have been damaged, the pain can continue to radiate into other soft tissues in the area, like those in the shoulders and upper back.

Weakness, numbness and tingling: When whiplash injures the cervical spine it can cause the vertebrae to press on the nerves in the neck. This will cause you to feel weakness, numbness or tingling in your shoulders, arms, hands and/or fingers. These symptoms are usually felt on one side of the body where the nerve has been compressed. However, if more than one nerve is being pressed between vertebrae or has become swollen, these symptoms might be felt on both sides of the body.

There can be a range of other whiplash symptoms that include the following:

  •         Blurry vision
  •         Irritability and feeling anxious
  •         Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
  •         Difficulty sleeping
  •         Lack of energy and fatigue
  •         Trouble concentrating
  •         Trouble swallowing, chewing or talking because of an injury to the muscles around  the jaw

How is whiplash diagnosed?

Diagnosing whiplash is based on a collection of factors. If you think you have suffered whiplash, your physician will ask you to give him or her a detailed description of the injury and how it occurred. The physician will also ask you about your medical history, conduct a physical exam and may order diagnostic imaging like an x-ray or CT scan.

After the doctor collects all of this information he or she will make a diagnosis as to whether you have suffered whiplash.

What are the treatments for whiplash?

There are a variety of treatments for whiplash and your physician will recommend the best ones for you depending upon the severity of your injury and the symptoms you are experiencing. Types of treatment for whiplash include medications, over-the-counter pain relievers, ice, physical therapy, chiropractic treatments, acupuncture and massage. It is best not to treat whiplash yourself, but to be seen by a physician and follow his or her recommendations for treatment.

The following treatments may relieve the pain of whiplash:

Ice and/or heat: Applying ice or heat to your neck for 15 minutes at a time may help to relieve pain. Your doctor may recommend that you do this up to six times each day.

Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription pain killers may be recommended to reduce pain. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen and others can be successful in addressing mild to moderate pain. Severe pain is addressed with prescription medications.

Injections: In cases of severe pain, injections of medication to numb the area may help. Doctors may recommend this to relieve pain so that physical therapy and exercise can be conducted to treat the whiplash.

Muscle relaxants: Doctors may recommend that you use muscle relaxants to help you relieve whiplash pain while you sleep.  

Recovering from whiplash:

Physical therapy can help you recover from whiplash. Physical therapists are trained to use exercises and different types of movement to help you regain strength in the muscles and ligaments of your neck. Over time physical therapy can reduce the pain of whiplash and help you to regain a full range of motion in your neck and shoulders.

Some people choose what are known as alternative therapies, including chiropractic treatments, acupuncture and massage. Discuss these with your physician so that you can make an informed decision about which treatments are best for you.

If you suffer from whiplash, visit AG Urgent Care Centers in Brooklyn. Our physicians will see you without a long wait time and will assess your injury. You will be able to receive treatment quickly and will find physicians you can contact and consult with as you recover.

Whiplash is painful but finding fast, skilled medical care shouldn’t be. Our membership plans give you full access to our physicians 24 hours a day, seven days a week and include a convenient mobile app. It is less expensive than regular insurance plans and gives you a place to call home for your medical care.


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