Whiplash is a term frequently used to describe neck injury sustained in a motor vehicle accident. The term whiplash suggests a sudden forward flexion of the head followed immediately by bending backwards or extension in a whip-like fashion. Sometimes, there is the immediate onset of neck pain or some discomfort. Frequently, painful symptoms do not present themselves for several hours or days thereafter.
If emergency personnel present at the accident scene, the injured person is evaluated and may be transported to a local emergency department. With a later onset of symptoms, the accident victim will present later to an emergency department, primary care provider, chiropractor, or other treating provider.
Whiplash Assessment & Symptoms
Initial medical assessment should include a history of events and symptoms and a careful clinical evaluation especially to rule out any type of neurologic involvement. Radiologic studies, such as x-ray, may be required. Infrequently, a more sophisticated imaging study such as CT or MRI scan may also be necessary to rule out a more serious condition.
Whiplash Pain Management & Treatment
Most commonly, whiplash injuries are self-limiting and will gradually resolve over the next several weeks to months. Supportive care may include ice or heat application, pain-relieving medications including muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatory agents, manipulation including chiropractic, or physical therapy. Recent scientifically-based medical literature reviews have suggested neck strengthening exercises to provide definite and lasting benefit.
In the relatively smaller percentage of patients, pain can persist and remain relatively severe and disabling negatively impacting on quality of life and ability to perform activities of daily living such as work. Medical studies have shown that the most common cause of this persistent disabling pain is the result of facet or zygapophyseal joint injuries. These injuries may not only cause neck pain, but associated headaches, shoulder, arm, and upper back pain. The definitive diagnosis of these joint injuries can only be done with the use of precise image-guided injections or so called diagnostic blocks. Fortunately, if it is determined that one suffers from this joint pain, there are very effective non-surgical treatments which relieve the pain and allow the injured individual to return to their pre-injury lifestyle.
For more information, read our other blogs at www.specialtyspinecare.com. If you suffer from chronic neck pain related to a motor vehicle accident or otherwise, contact the specialists at NERA Spine, Sports & Pain at (610) 954-9400 to make an appointment.