Whiplash of the Neck

Whiplash is a common term for an injury that occurs to the cervical vertebrae and supporting soft tissues. The injury is caused by a sudden jerking, acceleration, or forward acceleration of the head with respect to the vertebral column. Most often cervical whiplash is associated with an automobile accident that produces a sudden and forceful forward or backward “whipping” of the head and neck.

Symptoms of cervical whiplash occur as a result of muscle and ligament sprains and strains to the cervical portion of the spine and supporting tissues in the neck. Common symptoms of cervical whiplash include:

  • Neck pain at the base of the neck that increases over time
  • Decreased ability to move the neck
  • Increased pain with movement
  • Muscle spasms in the neck

In some cases, there are no symptoms for hours to days after the accident. However, symptoms gradually appear and progressively worsen.

Other symptoms that may occur include:

  • Visual changes, such as blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Increase in frequency, intensity and duration of migraine headaches

Your physician may include some of the following methods to treat whiplash:

  • Rest can enable the body to heal
  • A soft cervical collar may be worn to reduce strain on the muscles and ligaments of the cervical spine and decrease pain. If a cervical collar is prescribed, it should be worn as instructed
  • Aspirin, ibuprofen, or other anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed to decrease inflammation, reduce muscle spasm, and decrease pain. Muscle relaxants are sometimes prescribed for a short time to promote rest, reduce muscle spasm, and decrease pain
  • Physical therapy, including heat in the initial stages, then cold therapy
  • Isometric and range of motion exercises may be prescribed and a physical therapy consultation may be recommended

Be sure to tell your doctor if:

  • Symptoms worsen or new symptoms develop
  • Symptoms become worrisome

For more information about whiplash of the neck, please call (918) 494-AOOK (2665).