Alternative Names hyperextension injury of the neck
Definition Whiplash occurs when the neck is suddenly and forcibly bent backward and forward. This causes injury to the joints of the neck, known as the cervical vertebrae, and to the surrounding soft tissue. The most common causes of whiplash are motor vehicle accidents, especially when the vehicle is struck from the rear.
What are the signs and symptoms of the injury? Whiplash generally causes:
neck pain, usually in the back of the neck along either side of the spine
numbness or a tingling sensation in the upper body
What are the causes and risks of the injury? Whiplash injuries usually happen to a person who is not wearing a seat belt when a motor vehicle is rear-ended. As a result of whiplash, the ligaments in the neck may be stretched or even torn. Sometimes fractures in the vertebrae may also be involved.
What can be done to prevent the injury? Generally, wearing a seat belt and avoiding motion that causes sudden jerking of the head can prevent this injury.
How is the injury recognised? Whiplash is diagnosed with a complete physical examination and medical history, including details of the accident.
What are the treatments for the injury? Time and gentle range of motion exercises are usually the best treatments for whiplash. The doctor may also recommend:
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, to help reduce the pain and swelling
What are the side effects of the treatments? Side effects depend on the medications used, but may include drowsiness, stomach upset, or allergic reactions.
What happens after treatment for the injury? It may take from 2 to 4 weeks before the person regains full range of motion of the neck without pain. In more severe cases, symptoms may persist for months.The individual may have recurrent headaches. physiotherapy may be needed to help keep the neck muscles strong and healthy.
Author: James Broomfield, MD Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel Editor: Dr John Hearne Last Updated: 16/10/2004 Contributors Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request
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